Several media outlets are reporting that the White House intends to announce next week that recipients of both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines should receive a third dose of vaccine 8 months after their second dose in order to boost protection against the Delta (B1617.2) variant.
The proposed third doses could be administered as soon as mid-September, sources told The New York Times, with nursing home residents and healthcare workers poised to get the first shots, followed by elderly Americans who were vaccinated last winter.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will need to authorize additional shots, and guidance for Johnson & Johnson recipients will follow after that company releases results from a second-dose trial later this month. White House officials say people will be encouraged to get a third dose of whichever mRNA vaccine they first received.
Much of the decision has been based on Israel’s experience. Israel was the first country to vaccinate a large swath of its population with the Pfizer vaccine in January. Ongoing studies show that antibodies, especially in older people, begin to wane after 6 to 8 months.
According to the latest data from Israel, the Pfizer vaccine is now only 55% effective for Israelis 65 and older who completed the two-dose vaccine regimen in January.
Late last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended third doses of the mRNA vaccines for people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems, including cancer patients and those living with HIV.
Pfizer to submit data to FDA
Yesterday, Pfizer-BioNTech released more data from a phase 1 trial showing that a third dose of vaccine elicited a greater immune response against the Beta (B1351) and Delta variants.
“The data we’ve seen to date suggest a third dose of our vaccine elicits antibody levels that significantly exceed those seen after the two-dose primary schedule. We are pleased to submit these data to the FDA as we continue working together to address the evolving challenges of this pandemic,” said Albert Bourla, Pfizer chief executive officer, in a press statement.
In the study, participants received a 30-µg dose of BNT162b2 8 or 9 months after receiving the second dose. Currently, two doses of the Pfizer vaccine are approved for use in Americans ages 12 and up.
The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows that 50.8% of Americans have been fully vaccinated, and 59.8% have received at least one dose. Roughly 87% of those Americans have been vaccinated with a two-dose mRNA vaccine.
In related vaccine news, the Atlanta Falcons said yesterday that the entire team has received COVID-19 vaccines, making them the first NFL team to be completely inoculated, NBC News reports.
Alabama’s ICUs near capacity
The United States reported 210,168 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 686 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. The 7-day average of new daily cases is 133,526, according to the Washington Post tracker.
Southern states are still struggling to control the surge of cases caused by the Delta variant.
Alabama’s intensive care units (ICUs) were near capacity Monday, the Associated Press reports. The state has 1,562 ICU beds, with 1,560 hospitalized patients needing intensive care. COVID-19 patients account for 48% of the state’s ICU patients.
In Florida, schools are struggling with soaring case counts just days after re-opening. The Hillsborough County School District in Florida said that as of Monday, 5,599 students and 316 staff members have either tested positive or been exposed to COVID-19, according to Axios.
Masking in schools has become a hot-button topic in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis banned mask mandates. But overall, 69% of Americans support school districts requiring masks in schools, according to the latest Axios/Ipsos poll, and 64% of Americans support their state or local governments requiring masks in public places.
Roughly 60% of Americans said they opposed state laws that prohibit local governments from issuing mask requirements.