CLEVELAND — Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Thursday that people will likely need a third shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine within 12 months of being fully vaccinated.
Bourla said COVID-19 variants will be crucial in determining what vaccinations will be needed in the future.
As the race to herd immunity and a return to normalcy continues, local experts believe the booster shot will likely come about a year after vaccination, depending on a particular person’s antibody levels to aid in fighting off the virus.
“The protection is excellent right now, but we just don't know if it's going to wear off and need to be boosted,” Dr. Keith Armitage of University Hospitals said. “The vaccine is new and of course, COVID-19 is a new disease.”
Experts say the COVID-19 virus changes and mutates over time, similar to the flu.
“We need the flu shot every year because we need to boost our immunity because it's a new virus every year,” Armitage said.
As Pfizer’s CEO states, it’s likely that the COVID-19 vaccine will need to be administered annually.
Armitage said the trial research changes often.
“With COVID, we may need a boost that's more engineered for the variants,” Armitage said. “We may need a boost just because over time it kind of wears off.”
However, experts acknowledge there is vaccine hesitancy among Ohioans and misinformation is often spread online.
“I know there's been a lot of rumor mills going about hiding things from the public or lying about adverse events or deaths,” Dr. Amy Edwards said. “I actually think that this should give people more confidence in the process and in these vaccines.”
Donna Skoda of Summit County Public Health said some residents have been reluctant, but stated the county has not seen any vaccine cancellations.
“It has been sort of an up and down week for folks because you hear one thing and then you hear another and you start to get nervous,” Skoda said. “We did have some folks today that were making sure and double checking that they didn't get the J&J vaccine, which is very normal right now.”
As Pfizer touts a 95% efficacy rating after the second dose of the shot, Armitage said there is cause for optimism regarding vaccination efforts in Ohio.
“It really looks like the vaccines are keeping people out of the hospital. The question is, we just don't know how long the positive effect will last,” Armitage said. “Pretty much none of the people who have regular immune systems who are being admitted, for now, have been vaccinated. We're not seeing any vaccinated people except in rare cases that have immunosuppression.”