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Delta variant sets up new path, Pfizer to seek emergency approval for COVID booster shot

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With the Delta variant now the dominant version of COVID-19 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pfizer is reportedly set to seek authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to administer a third dose of its coronavirus vaccine.

The announcement follows a recent report that Israel’s health ministry warned that the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine in preventing both infection and symptomatic disease has dropped to 64%.

Pfizer cited the evidence of greater risk of reinfection six months after inoculation and the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, Reuters reported, saying a third shot would boost immunity and potentially stop the spread of coronavirus variants.

“The Pfizer vaccine is highly active against the Delta variant,” Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, Mikael Dolsten, said, according to the news agency. But after six months, the Swedish-American physician scientist added, “there likely is the risk of reinfection as antibodies, as predicted, wane.”

Dolsten said Pfizer’s own data from the U.S. showed vaccine erosion in the mid-80s after six months and stressed that data from Israel and Britain suggests the vaccine remains around 95% effective against severe disease, Reuters noted.

A full set of the Israeli data has not been released, but Pfizer reportedly said it would be published soon.

“It’s a small data set, but I think the trend is accurate: Six months out, given that Delta is the most contagious variant we have seen, it can cause infections and mild disease,” Dolsten said.

Later in the day, the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration released an unusual joint statement declaring that Americans “do not need a booster shot.”

“People who are fully vaccinated are protected from severe disease and death, including from the variants currently circulating in the country such as Delta,” the statement read.

“Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time. FDA, CDC, and [the National Institutes of Health] are engaged in a science-based, rigorous process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary,” added the agencies. “We continue to review any new data as it becomes available and will keep the public informed. We are prepared for booster doses if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed.”

The announcement added more confusion to an already confusing situation and did nothing to encourage additional participation in the vaccination process as the Biden White House embarks on a full-on effort to get skeptical Americans to get a shot. An effort that will include going door to door to urge people to get vaccinated.

It also prompted an interesting debate online over which entity is more trustworthy, the CDC or Pfizer, which some social media users saw as a choice between the frying pan and the fire.

Here’s a sampling of responses to the story from Twitter:

 

Tom Tillison

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