Will Canadians need a COVID-19 booster shot?
Pfizer announced it plans to seek authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration for a COVID-19 booster shot, which has Canadians wondering if they’ll need a third dose before they’ve even had their second.
The pharmaceutical giant and its partner, BioNTech, announced on Thursday that they plan to submit data to regulators to gain approval for a vaccine booster in the US, “in the coming weeks.”
The companies have seen “encouraging data” in their booster trials, Christina Antoniou, Pfizer Canada’s Director of Corporate Affairs, told Daily Hive.
Data demonstrates that a booster shot given six months after the second vaccine elicits antibodies against the initial COVID-19 strain and the Beta variant that are five to 10 times stronger than just the original two-dose regimen.
Antoniou noted that a recent paper published in the journal, Nature, shows two doses of Pfizer vaccine provide strong protection against the Delta variant.
Pfizer and BioNTech anticipate that a third dose will boost these antibodies, as it does with the Beta variant. Tests are currently being run to confirm this.
Antoniou said that data from the Israel Ministry of Health shows that the vaccine’s ability to prevent infection and symptomatic disease has declined six months post-vaccination.
However, the vaccine is still highly capable of preventing serious illnesses.
“Based on the totality of the data they have to date, Pfizer and BioNTech believe that a third dose may be beneficial within six to 12 months following the second dose to maintain highest levels of protection,” Antoniou said.
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Anna Maddison, a senior media relations advisor with Health Canada, told Daily Hive that Health Canada has not received a submission from Pfizer for the approval of a COVID-19 booster shot. Should a submission be received, Health Canada will evaluate the data accordingly.
“It is possible that Canadians will need a subsequent vaccination or booster shot after we have reached sufficient levels of community protection with the current rollout,” she said.
“Based on previous evidence, booster vaccines may be required when immunity decreases below levels of protection and if there is an increase in breakthrough disease.”
Maddison noted that boosters might be required if variants evolve to the extent that they are no longer “efficiently” recognized by the vaccine.
“Given the emergence of variants of concern, the need for future booster doses is being closely monitored,” Maddison said.
“What we do know is that all currently approved vaccines in Canada are safe and highly effective at preventing COVID-19 infection as well as at reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalization and early death.”