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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

8 hours ago - Health

Israel to offer third COVID vaccine dose to people over 60

A woman receives her third dose of COVID19 vaccine at Sheba Medical Center on July 14, 2021 in Israel. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Israel will begin offering a third shot of the coronavirus vaccine to people over the age of 60 starting Sunday, Haaretz reports.

Why it matters: Israel will become the first country to begin giving booster shots, per Haaretz. The country will offer doses to those over 60 who received their second dose at least five months ago.

9 hours ago - Health

European Union surpasses the U.S. in COVID-19 vaccinations

A line of people wait to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències de Valencia, on July 28, 2021. Photo: Rober Solsona/Europa Press via Getty Images

The member states of the European Union together have administered more coronavirus vaccine doses per 100 people than the United States, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The new figures highlight the pace at which the 27 member states of the E.U. are vaccinating their citizens, and stand in stark contrast to the speed of vaccinations in the U.S., which has stagnated.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
12 hours ago - Health

Testing our way around the Delta surge

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The recent surge of COVID-19 cases is strengthening the case for more frequent testing.

Why it matters: The more contagious Delta variant threatens the fuller reopening of offices and schools in the fall. But regular testing — especially with cheap and almost instantaneous tests — could help catch cases before they have a chance to spread.