To ensure optimal protection against COVID-19 and its variants, Dr. Anthony Fauci says those who have been vaccinated will likely need another round of shots within a year or so.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said a booster COVID-19 vaccine may be needed as early as this fall for those who got vaccinated early on.
"We know that the vaccine durability of the efficacy lasts at least six months, and likely considerably more, but I think we will almost certainly require a booster sometime within a year or so after getting the primary," Fauci said.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said his company hasn’t yet finished its trials on a booster vaccine, but that data from the trial should be publicly available in the next few months.
"I believe in one, two months we will have enough data to speak about it with much higher scientific certainty," Bourla said.
Fauci added that vaccines specifically targeting different variants of the virus may not be needed if people keep getting booster doses against the “wild type,” or the non-mutated strain of the virus.
"Instead of having to play whack-a-mole with each individual variant and develop a booster that's variant-specific, it is likely that you could just keep boosting against the wild type, and wind up getting a good enough response that you wouldn't have to worry about the variants," he said.
Could require yearly shots
Experts now believe the coronavirus could end up requiring seasonal mitigation efforts, similar to the flu. The flu requires a new vaccination every year because it mutates and doesn’t provide protection for more than a year.
Boula said, for example, that people who got their second shot of Pfizer’s vaccine at the end of last year may need a booster by this fall.
"If they got their second shot eight months ago, they may need a third one," Bourla said, adding that booster shots could be coming between September and October of this year. But it’s ultimately up to the FDA to decide what to recommend and approve,” he noted.