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Pharmaceutical Executives Suggest Annual COVID-19 Vaccinations

April 19, 2021 by Tom Ramstack
(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Officials from the top U.S. pharmaceutical companies making the COVID-19 vaccine are saying vaccinated persons are likely to need booster shots within a year.

In fact, they probably will need to get vaccinated yearly for the foreseeable future, similar to the annual flu vaccines.

“A likely scenario is that there will be likely a need for a third dose, somewhere between six and 12 months and then from there, there will be an annual revaccination, but all of that needs to be confirmed,” Pfizer Inc. Chief Executive Albert Bourla said this week during a CNBC interview. “And again, the variants will play a key role.”

Similar statements were made in recent days by the chief executives of Moderna Inc. and Johnson & Johnson.

The pharmaceutical executives spoke about ongoing COVID-19 threats as the head of the World Health Organization said the pandemic is close to spiraling out of control.

COVID-19 cases reported weekly have nearly doubled globally in the past two months, reaching the highest rate since the pandemic started in late 2019.

“Cases and deaths are continuing to increase at worrying rates,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, said this week.

Propelling some of the increase is the emergence of variants of the virus from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, according to the WHO. The variants are resistant to current vaccines, meaning the pandemic is likely to spread further and at an increasing rate.

Pfizer’s Bourla said the rapid spread among a growing segment of the world population demonstrates the need to get the disease under control quickly, before new and more deadly variants crop up.

“It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus,” Bourla said during a CVS Health event.

Moderna Chief Executive Stephane Bancel said this week his company is hurrying to complete a booster shot by the fall.

He also said annual COVID-19 vaccinations are likely to become annual events in the coming years.

The disease “is not going away” and it’s “not leaving the planet,” Bancel told reporters.

The pharmaceutical executives’ warnings were backed up Thursday in congressional testimony from U.S. government disease specialists.

David Kessler, chief science officer for the White House COVID-19 Response Team, told lawmakers that the three current vaccines are highly effective but variants of the virus could “challenge” their continued effectiveness.

“Over the last several months, we have witnessed an increasing prevalence in viral variants that have raised questions about how effective current vaccines will be in the future,” Kessler said in his testimony to the House Oversight and Reform select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis.

He added, “As with other vaccines, such as the influenza vaccines, a subsequent dose may be important to provide continued protection against the wild-type strain but also may be critical to maintain protection against variants.”

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