July 9, 2021 — Shortly after Pfizer announced its intention to seek FDA authorization for a third COVID-19 vaccine shot on Thursday, the CDC, FDA and National Institutes of Health countered with a joint statement the same day saying, essentially, it’s still too soon.
In a battle of the booster shot statements, the vaccine manufacturer and the U.S. government are drawing very different conclusions based on the evidence to date.
Pfizer points to “encouraging data” for a third shot to be given 6 months after initial vaccination in an ongoing trial of its COVID-19 vaccine. The company said the study supports vaccine efficacy against the Beta variant of concern first identified in South Africa.
Furthermore, a June study in Nature found two doses of their vaccine produced strong neutralizing antibodies against the Delta variant in laboratory testing. “The companies anticipate that a third dose will boost those antibody titers even higher,” the Pfizer statement reads.
Pfizer, along with its partner BioNTech, also pointed to evidence from Israel that the existing two-dose mRNA vaccine regimen provides less protection against infection as the Delta variant levels continue to grow in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Putting the Brakes on a Booster?
Just hours later, the U.S. government agencies released a two-paragraph joint statement.
“Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time. FDA, CDC, and NIH are engaged in a science-based, rigorous process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary,” the agencies said.
The U.S. government appeared to acknowledge Pfizer’s move but emphasized they will continue to look at the big picture. “This process takes into account laboratory data, clinical trial data, and cohort data — which can include data from specific pharmaceutical companies, but does not rely on those data exclusively.”
The agencies add, “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.”