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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The first Americans to be vaccinated against the coronavirus could require a third "booster" shot as early as September, the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna told Axios.

Driving the news: "The data that I see coming, they are supporting the notion that likely there will be a need for a booster somewhere between eight and 12 months," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said yesterday during an Axios event.

That means some Americans could need a booster as soon as September or October, he added.

State of play: Only time will tell how long protection from the first two vaccine doses will last, but there's no evidence yet that it's fading. Even if protection does begin to fade — which is common among vaccines — it won't happen overnight.

  • And as the virus continues to spread around the world, it’s possible that vaccine-resistant variants could eventually emerge. (The existing vaccines are highly effective against the variants currently circulating in the U.S.)

What they're saying: "I think we will almost certainly require a booster sometime within a year or so after getting the primary [shot] because the durability of protection against coronaviruses is generally not lifelong," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told Axios' Mike Allen at the same event.

  • "I think as a country we should rather be two months too early, than two months too late with outbreaks in several places," Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel wrote in an email.
  • "People at highest risks (elderly, healthcare workers) were vaccinated in December/January," he added. "So I would do [a] September start for those at highest risk."

The other side: Experts caution to consider the drug companies' predictions in context with their broader business goals.

  • "It’s not proven that we need boosters yet. Whereas it’s appropriate to plan for boosters, you’ve got to look at whether there’s a corporate agenda behind this," said Cornell professor and virologist John Moore.
  • “As of now, we don’t have any evidence that protective immunity has dropped to a troubling point, and certainly not for people immunized in December, January, February," he added. “It's hard to say where we will be in November because right now it’s May.”

The bottom line: Even if you received your first shot in December, you don't need to worry that you'll wake up tomorrow having lost all of your immunity.

  • “Personally, if I was in that situation, I wouldn’t be worrying about it — not yet. But I would want to see that data later in the year," Moore said.
  • The decline in protection would be gradual, and researchers around the world are gathering data on the subject through clinical trials and real-world evidence.

Go deeper

Aug 27, 2021 - Health

NBA staff must be vaccinated if around players, referees

Fully vaccinated fans are seen in the vaccinated section of the stadium during the NBA Play-In Tournament game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center on May 19. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The NBA said Friday that all personnel who will be in close proximity to players and referees must be fully vaccinated, according to a company memo shared with Axios.

State of play: This includes anyone who travels with teams, those who are around the bench areas and those who have access to the locker rooms. Team staff must be vaccinated by Oct. 1.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: FDA approves Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up — Team USA to mandate vaccine for Winter Olympic hopefuls — U.S. to buy 500 million more Pfizer doses to share with the world.
  2. Health: Some experts see signs of hope as cases fall — WHO: Nearly 1 in 4 Afghan COVID hospitals shut after Taliban takeover — D.C. goes further than area counties with vaccine mandates.
  3. Politics: Bolsonaro isolating after health minister tests positive at UN summit — United Airlines says 97% of U.S. employees fully vaccinated — Mormon Church to mandate masks in temples.
  4. Education: Asymptomatic Florida students exposed to COVID no longer have to quarantine — Education Department investigating Texas mask mandate ban — D.C. schools to require teachers, staff to receive vaccine without testing option.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Aug 27, 2021 - Health

U.S. opens COVID-19 vaccination site for arriving Afghans

Refugees board buses that will take them to a processing center after they arrive at Dulles International Airport after being evacuated from Kabul. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The U.S. has set up a coronavirus vaccination site for Afghans arriving at the Dulles International Airport in Virginia, a White House official told Axios.

State of play: Upon arrival, all Afghan evacuees are first tested for the virus and vaccines are then offered to those who test negative. The Federal Emergency Management Agency set up the vaccination site at the Dulles Expo center, and the vaccines are being administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, the White House official said.