How Is Moderna's COVID Vaccine Holding Up Against Variants?


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Fact check: Viral meme makes false claim about delta variant

USA TODAY 10 July, 2021 - 12:15pm

Health officials and experts have acknowledged the presence of the delta variant and warned about its rapid spread.

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CDC tracking shows the delta variant spreading most quickly in swaths of the country with the lowest rates of vaccinations. USA TODAY

As the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread and outpace global vaccination efforts, misinformation surrounding the highly transmissible strain has surfaced on social media. 

Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine activists have falsely claimed a spike protein of COVID-19 vaccines is causing the delta variant and alleged that the delta variant is part of a plan to force vaccinations on younger age groups. 

Now, one post is claiming the delta variant doesn’t even exist. 

A July 5 Facebook post with more than 11,000 reactions includes an altered image of former President Donald Trump posing with an executive order that says, “The Delta Variant Is Fake News.” 

Fan page Trump Talking captioned the image: “Have you seen the latest fake news? What do you think of it?” 

The term "fake news" has adopted an array of meanings online, but some commenters clearly read it in this case to be an assertion the delta variant itself is fake. Users in the comments responded, “They are just fueling the fire for the Democrats” and claimed the variant was created “to keep everyone living in fear.” 

But the Delta variant is a very real threat that is dominant in some areas around the world, and health officials agree it is the most transmissible variant of the coronavirus to date. 

USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook page for comment. 

The Delta variant is spreading in the US, but the WHO, CDC and local governments have put out conflicting mask-wearing guidance. Here's what we know. USA TODAY

Delta, also known as B.1.617.2,  is one of the variants of the coronavirus, which are the result of changes to the virus's genes. When a virus replicates, mutations can occur in its genetic material. 

The World Health Organization called the delta variant “the most transmissible of the variants identified so far.” Since it was first detected in India in December 2020, the delta variant has been reported in at least 98 countries

“There are more than two-dozen countries that have epidemic curves that are almost vertical right now,” Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead at the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said while discussing the delta variant at a briefing on July 7. 

In the United States, more than 51.7% of new coronavirus cases were linked to the delta variant over the two weeks ending July 3, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Covid ActNow's U.S. COVID-19 Risk and Vaccine Tracker says 12 states are at high risk from the virus due to low vaccination rates and the spread of the delta variant. 

“The delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a press conference in June

Studies have found that two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are effective against the delta variant, however, some countries, including ones in Africa and Europe, are experiencing a slow rollout of vaccines, resulting in a surge of infections. 

Research suggests the delta variant is the most transmissible of all known coronavirus variants globally, and scientists say it spreads about 225% faster than the original version of the virus. 

Health experts say the delta variant infections come with the same symptoms as the original Sars-CoV-2 virus, but they are more severe. Patients are more likely to require hospitalization and oxygen treatments.

The claim that the delta variant is fake is FALSE, based on our research. Data from the CDC shows the delta variant makes up a majority of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S., and the variant has been detected in at least 98 countries. Health officials and experts have acknowledged the presence of the delta variant and warned about its rapid spread.

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In-Depth: J&J immunity against the delta variant

ABC 10 News 10 July, 2021 - 12:15pm

Data showing lower death rate for coronavirus delta variant doesn't mean it's less dangerous

PolitiFact 10 July, 2021 - 12:14pm

Misinformation isn't going away just because it's a new year. Support trusted, factual information with a tax deductible contribution to PolitiFact.

Vaccination rates are much higher since the early coronavirus variants emerged.

Vaccination is shown to reduce the severity of COVID-19 in those who are infected, so it’s expected that the relatively new delta variant would show a lower case fatality rate.

The delta variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been found to be far more infectious than the original coronavirus.

An Instagram post claimed it’s far less lethal.

"Fear in perpetuity," the post said. "Delta variant is approximately 19 times less deadly than the already massively inflated death numbers we got for China virus part 1. Mainstream media about to tell you otherwise 24/7."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Experts say there’s not enough data yet to determine whether the delta variant is less dangerous than earlier variants. 

Even as COVID-19 cases are on the decline and Americans resume much of normal life, new mutations of the virus are raising concern, particularly the delta. That variant, first identified in India in December, swept through Britain, and the first U.S. case was identified in March, according to the Yale School of Medicine. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts the delta variant will soon account for 45% of infections in a large group of states that span from Missouri to Montana.

A study published in April by Science, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, reviewed the delta variant in the United Kingdom. It found that the variant is 43% to 90% more transmissible than the original, but found "no clear evidence for a change in disease severity."

The Instagram post includes a portion of Table 2 from a June 25 technical report on coronavirus variants by Public Health England, a government agency. The table indicates the case fatality rate is 0.1% for delta, compared with 1.9% for the original alpha variant — or 1/19th the rate. That’s how the post arrives at the conclusion that delta is "19 times less deadly."

Public Health England spokesperson James McCreadie told PolitiFact the post "is factually incorrect and manipulates our data."

Experts pointed out that lower case fatality rates would be expected, simply because so many people have been vaccinated in recent months, whereas the original coronavirus had time to spread and cause severe disease long before vaccines became widely available. 

The vaccines authorized in the U.S. and the U.K. have been shown to substantially reduce the likelihood of getting infected with COVID-19, and to reduce the severity of the disease in those who do get infected.

Boston University professor Brooke Nichols, a health economist and infectious-disease mathematical modeler, noted that Table 4 of the same report shows that most people aged 50 and over who have been confirmed to be infected with the delta variant have had one or two doses of the vaccine. 

"The reported case fatality rate from Table 2 in the report is really just illustrative of the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing severe disease," she said.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said: "All variants are going to have a lower case fatality rate, because a significant portion of the population, especially those at high risk for death, are fully or partially vaccinated."

The delta virus was "tamer because of the high proportion of high-risk people that were protected by a combination of vaccination and prior immunity," he added. "Also, treatments have improved."

An Instagram post claimed that the delta variant of the coronavirus "is approximately 19 times less deadly."

A government report from England indicates that the fatality rate for the delta variant there is 0.1%, compared with 1.9% for the original coronavirus. The difference is a factor of 19.

But the agency cautions that it is too soon to make comparisons of the risk of death posed by variants and says the post misinterprets the data. 

We rate the post Mostly False.

Instagram, post, July 1, 2021

Public Health England, "SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and variants under investigation in England, Technical briefing 17," 

Email, Public Health England senior communications officer James McCreadie, July 5, 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Variant Proportions," accessed July 2, 2021 

Scientific American, "How Dangerous Is the Delta Variant, and Will It Cause a COVID Surge in the U.S.?", June 29, 2021

PolitiFact, "Vaccines, variants and July Fourth: How to celebrate safely," June 30, 2021

Science, "Estimated transmissibility and impact of SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7 in England," April 9, 2021

Email, Boston University professor Brooke Nichols, a health economist and infectious-disease mathematical modeler, July 6, 2021

Email, Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, July 6, 2021

Meme Trumpets Falsehood About Delta Variant 10 July, 2021 - 12:14pm

It’s difficult to know exactly how deadly COVID-19 is, but as the World Health Organization has written, studies estimate that the infection fatality ratio, or percentage of deaths out of all infections, is between 0.5% and 1%. The true rate isn’t clear, since the pandemic is ongoing and not all infections have been diagnosed.

The case fatality rate, or percentage of deaths out of confirmed cases, was 1.8% in the United States as of July 9.

An individual’s risk of death may be significantly higher or lower than what these numbers suggest, depending on a person’s age or health conditions. For example, the CDC estimates that the risk of death is more than 600 times higher for someone 85 years and older as compared with someone between the ages of 18 and 29.

The delta variant of the coronavirus, which was first documented in India in October, is now the dominant variant in the U.S. It accounted for more than half of new infections for the two weeks ending July 3, according to the most recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This variant of the virus spreads more quickly and easily than the original, and it has been designated as a “variant of concern” by both the World Health Organization and a U.S. government SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group.

A variant that spreads more easily could lead to more cases of COVID-19, which could strain the health care system and, potentially, cause more deaths, according to the CDC.

“Where the delta variant is identified, it really rapidly takes off and spreads between people more efficiently than even the alpha variant,” WHO epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove explained in a recent interview.

So far, the delta variant has been detected in 98 countries, according to the WHO.

But a meme has been circulating on Facebook suggesting that the variant isn’t real or isn’t serious. It says, “The Delta Variant Is Fake News.”

That text is typed over a 2017 executive order that then-President Donald Trump signed to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. After signing it, Trump held up the order and a photo of that moment has been used to make a host of similar memes.

The meme has garnered comments indicating that many believe the mutations of the virus that causes COVID-19 are political fabrications, as shown in this example: “They’re just getting us ready to lock us down again in 2022 so they can have a cheat fest again.”

But, as we said, the delta variant is a “variant of concern” and is now responsible for more than half of the new COVID-19 infections in the U.S.

It’s worth noting, too, that the currently available vaccines appear to be effective against the delta variant, but it’s important to get the full dosage of the vaccine if two shots are required, as is the case for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Also, the standard public health guidance that recommends physical distancing and wearing masks can help to control the spread of this variant.

World Health Organization. Tracking SARS-CoV-2 variants. Accessed 8 Jul 2021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID Data Tracker — Variant Proportions. Accessed 8 Jul 2021.

World Health Organization. Science in 5. Episode #45 – Delta variant. 5 Jul 2021.

United Nations. COVID-19 Delta variant detected in 98 countries, continues to evolve and mutate, warns WHO. 2 Jul 2021.

Trump, Donald. Presidential Memorandum Regarding Withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Agreement. 23 Jan 2017.

C-SPAN. Executive Orders Signings. 23 Jan 2017.

Katella, Kathy. “5 Things To Know About the Delta Variant.” Yale Medicine. 7 Jul 2021.

Planas, Delphine, et al. “Reduced sensitivity of SARS-CoV-2 variant Delta to antibody neutralization.” Nature. 8 Jul 2021.

McDonald, Jessica. “What Do the New Coronavirus Variants Mean for the Pandemic?” Updated 4 Feb 2021.

Here’s Why You Probably Won't Need A Booster Shot Against The Delta Variant Anytime Soon

BuzzFeed News 10 July, 2021 - 08:36am

99.5% of COVID-19 deaths in the US are now among people who are unvaccinated.

By Dan Vergano

Posted on July 10, 2021, at 9:36 a.m. ET

Facing the threat of a more infectious Delta variant, vaccine makers Pfizer and BioNTech released a statement on Thursday saying it “may be beneficial” for people to get a third dose of their COVID vaccine within six months to a year. But US health officials and other scientists have vehemently disagreed, saying our current vaccines are holding up really well — at least so far.

“Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time,” reads an unusual joint statement from the FDA and the CDC released hours after Pfizer’s announcement. “People who are fully vaccinated are protected from severe disease and death, including from the variants currently circulating in the country such as Delta.”

Holding off on a booster is reasonable, scientists told BuzzFeed News, both because our vaccines are still holding off infections against current variants and because even in the rare cases when vaccinated people do get infected, they’re protected against severe disease and death.

“The dam is still holding, even if there has been some splashing going on,” said immunologist E. John Wherry, director of the Penn Institute of Immunology.

The strength of the vaccines, paired with the fact that Delta has rapidly become the dominant strain of the virus circulating in the US, only increases the urgency that more people get fully vaccinated, health officials said. In some parts of the US, more than 80% of new COVID-19 cases are Delta, and it is linked to surges in the UK and Africa, with a surge feared for Europe by August.

"Preliminary data from several states over the last few months suggest that 99.5% of deaths from COVID-19 in the United States were in unvaccinated people," said CDC chief Rochelle Walensky on Thursday. "Those deaths were preventable with a simple, safe shot."

Clinical trials of the mRNA vaccines last year reported a stunningly good, roughly 95% rate of preventing infections by the original coronavirus strain. While recent studies of the effectiveness of Pfizer’s two-shot mRNA vaccine against the Delta variant in the United Kingdom and Canada have shown a slight dip in the protection the shots offer, two doses still reduce the risk of infections by 79% to 88%. Israel’s health authority announced unpublished results in May suggesting protection against Delta was lowered to 64%, but even then, the shots were 93% effective at preventing severe disease and death.

Even the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, authorized in the US but used more rarely, offers reasonably good protection against Delta, said Anthony Fauci, chief of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a Thursday White House briefing. He added that the vaccine still lowers the risk of hospitalization by 93%.

“If you had told any of us that’s the effectiveness we have now with vaccines a year ago, we would have run to have taken that deal,” said Wherry. “We’re talking about a very substantial effectiveness rate that could have a major impact on restraining the pandemic.”

Fauci and other experts stressed the emergence of more contagious variants as just one more reason for the 32% of American adults still unvaccinated to get their shots. “Please get vaccinated. It will protect you against the surging of the Delta variant,” said Fauci.

Still, as long as the virus is replicating in people, it will mutate and give rise to new strains, said immunologist Andrew Pekosz of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Some of those strains have mutations that make them more infectious. The Delta strain, for example, is roughly 2.5 times more likely to infect unvaccinated people under age 50. And those mutations can also make the viruses less recognizable to our immune systems, which have been trained by vaccines to target the original coronavirus.

The newest variant raising concern is Lambda, flagged by the World Health Organization as a “variant of interest” in June. While a preliminary study in Chile suggests that, like some other variants, it lowers the effectiveness of vaccines, more studies are needed.

“The problem is the variants that we don’t know of, and where would those be generated,” said Jerome Kim, director of the International Vaccine Institute, a nonprofit focused on global vaccine development based in South Korea. “The risk is that if we continue to allow significant portions of the globe to be unvaccinated, then we are putting ourselves and all of our investments and time at risk, really undermining a year’s worth of really intense scientific effort.”

That presents yet another argument against delivering booster shots to people so soon, since those shots could be used to deliver vaccines to those who are still unvaccinated. Even ignoring humanitarian concerns, getting vaccines out to the rest of the world is the best way to stop the emergence of variants that could threaten everyone.

While mutations can help the virus, there are only so many changes it can make without compromising what makes the coronavirus so effective in the first place: the spike proteins it relies on to infect cells. “The amount of evolutionary search space that the virus can explore is constrained by the fact that the virus spike actually has a lot of jobs to do,” said Wherry. “You can only change so many parts without actually destroying the virus itself. So we are not going to see an infinite number of variants.”

That partly explains why our vaccines still work as well as they do against current variants: Vaccinated immune systems churn out defenses keyed to the parts of the spike protein that haven’t yet mutated. “One or two days into an infection, the immune system that is ready starts hitting the virus hard," said Pekosz.

That same biological timing might explain why, even when vaccinated people do get COVID-19, they are less likely to get severely ill, be hospitalized, or die.

As viral diseases go, COVID-19 is “a slow burn,” said Deepta Bhattacharya, an immunologist at the University of Arizona. In its early days, when it is most contagious, people experience cold symptoms or no symptoms at all. In serious cases, after about a week, people can go on to develop dangerous lung infections, caused by our immune systems going haywire and attacking vital organs.

This two-stage illness made containing the disease without vaccines almost impossible, since those early asymptomatic days allow people to transmit the virus “when they don't even know they're sick,” said Bhattacharya.

“So that's bad. But from an immunological standpoint, now with the vaccines, that's actually good, because it buys the immune system some time to clear the virus out before it starts causing major problems,” Bhattacharya added, calling this two-stage attack the coronavirus’s “Achilles heel.”

In addition to antibodies, the immune system makes so-called memory cells that might also explain how well our vaccines offer protection against severe disease, said Brian Lichty, an immunologist at McMasters University, in an email. While even fully vaccinated people might have a reduced ability to block infection from variants, since the antibodies are no longer a perfect match for the virus, their memory immune cells can still blunt the infection while they develop new immunity to the variant.

Lichty tested an experimental vaccine aimed only at producing memory cells targeted against nonspike parts of the original coronavirus, finding that it still helped protect mice against variants. “This isn’t terribly surprising,” Lichty said by email. “There is still some replication of SARS-CoV2 in these mice however, it is not blocked, just reduced.”

New studies have shown that memory cells can offer protection for at least eight months, providing even more reassurance as more infectious strains emerge. “Almost no matter what, I don't think you're going to fall back and end up again where you were when you had not been vaccinated at all,” said Bhattacharya.

Short of severe illness, vaccination also likely moderates the crummy symptoms of an infection that don’t qualify as severe, but are still no fun.

“There’s a lot of difference between having a headache for a few hours, and being knocked flat for two days or losing your sense of smell for life,” said Bhattacharya.

Menard's hardware store in Maplewood, Minnesota.

In light of the current effectiveness of vaccines against variants, the caution expressed by the CDC and the FDA about a booster right now makes sense, experts told BuzzFeed News. But that still leaves open the question of when a booster might be needed.

First, there’s an urgent need for more genome sequencing in Africa, Latin America, South America, and parts of Asia where outbreaks are occurring, as well as less-vaccinated parts of the US, to prevent being caught by surprise by a particularly dangerous new strain.

“How many times do we have to learn the lesson that this is a disease that we can predict?” asked Kim. “Unvaccinated people are at risk. You may not have an outbreak now, but you will have an outbreak, and when it comes you will be taken unawares, hospital beds will fill up, intensive care units will fill up, and people will die.”

The end goal is to get enough people vaccinated worldwide so that the virus cannot spread easily and will have fewer chances to mutate. If COVID-19 can become a nondeadly disease like a cold, the decision about a booster becomes more of a question about how long immunity provided by the vaccines will last. (Though, it’s worth noting, people on chemotherapy or with HIV might need boosters sooner to increase their immunity to the virus.)

One of the benefits of the mRNA vaccines that the US has authorized is that they can be fine-tuned against a particular variant much more quickly — on the scale of weeks instead of months, like older vaccines. Flu vaccines grown in eggs, for example, typically have their design selected in February against a flu season that doesn’t start until October, giving that virus time to mutate and evade the shots. The flexibility of mRNA vaccines gives us the luxury of responding quickly with a shot if a truly dangerous new coronavirus variant emerges, before it has that kind of time to mutate further.

“There’s also a difference between when you want to boost, and when you need to boost,” said Bhattacharya. ”It’s not very likely for variants to completely evade vaccines in our lifetimes, but it could get to the point where they evade enough of it that it’s a nuisance, and you want to booster. But again that's a very different situation than what we're at right now.”

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France's top health advisory body wants compulsory vaccinations for health workers

FRANCE 24 English 10 July, 2021 - 06:01am

"While the number of new cases and the pressure on the hospital system remain relatively low, the dynamic of the epidemic in France is significant and could quickly lead to a deterioration in the health situation," HAS said in a statement.

President Emmanuel Macron is expected to address the nation on Monday on the progress of the epidemic and his government's strategy to dampen the impact of what many scientists say is an inevitable fourth wave.

Government officials have said in recent weeks that mandatory vaccination for health workers was being considered as the now-dominant Delta variant causes a sharp upturn in France's infection rate.

On Saturday, the country's National Medicine Academy, a doctors' society, pressed authorities to impose compulsory vaccination for everyone aged 12 and above.

HAS also said the government should start thinking about mandatory vaccination for the entire population, in order to be ready to take such a decision if it became necessary.

The body also recommended shortening the time period between the first and second vaccine doses and said people over 55 who received a first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine should be given a second dose with an mRNA-based vaccine.

After falling from more than 42,000 per day mid-April to less than 2,000 per day in late June, the seven-day average of new infections has been climbing rapidly again since early July.

On Friday, the health ministry registered 4,580 new infections. In the past six days, the seven-day average number of new infections has increased by more than 50% every day, a pattern similar to the early phases of previous waves.

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Pfizer suggests booster shots will be needed this year, but government officials say science will dictate the timing

The Washington Post 09 July, 2021 - 07:53am

The disagreement surfaced as the world is roiled by the highly transmissible delta variant, which has destabilized plans to fully reopen some countries and intensified an ongoing scientific debate about when and whether booster shots will be needed.

South Korea, a country that has handled the pandemic well but rolled out vaccinations slowly, now faces what may be its worst wave of cases and implemented its highest level of social distancing restrictions this week. Japan banned spectators from the Tokyo Olympics after rising infections fueled by the delta variant. A surge in Portugal triggered a curfew and restrictions in many cities. Israel announced that as delta took hold there, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine kept people out of the hospital and prevented serious illness but was far less effective at fending off milder cases.

The HHS statement did not mention Pfizer by name but said “a science-based, rigorous process” headed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health would determine whether boosters were necessary. The decision, the statement said, will be only partly informed by data from drug companies. It underscored that the current data shows fully vaccinated people are protected against severe illness, even from the most challenging known variants.

“We are prepared for booster doses if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed,” the statement said. This spring, the U.S. government purchased 200 million additional doses from Moderna, another leading maker of coronavirus vaccines, to be used potentially for children or boosters. The government had previously purchased 300 million doses from Moderna and 300 million from Pfizer.

Pfizer’s chief executive has for months predicted that boosters could be needed within six to 12 months, seeming to offer certainty on a question that has captured public interest even as public health officials and academic scientists said it wasn’t clear yet when a booster would be needed. While some variants can slip by elements of the immune defenses mustered by vaccines, multiple lines of data have shown that fully vaccinated people remain well-protected against severe illness, hospitalization and death.

All the pharmaceutical companies involved in making coronavirus vaccines are working on formulating and testing booster shots to prepare for the possibility that immunity fades or a new variant capable of totally escaping vaccines emerges — steps that experts agree are prudent and wise.

But on Thursday, Pfizer released a statement indicating the time was near. The company said its vaccine’s effectiveness had eroded, citing two lines of evidence that outside scientists have yet to see in detail.

That includes an Israeli government analysis showing that as the delta variant became dominant there, vaccine efficacy dropped to 64 percent against infection or symptomatic illness, although it remained more than 90 percent effective against severe illness. The study has not yet been published, and some outside scientists have questioned how much weight to put on an analysis that has clear limitations. Pfizer also cited its continuing follow-up of people who were vaccinated last summer.

“While protection against severe disease remained high across the full 6 months, the observed decline in efficacy against symptomatic disease over time and the continued emergence of variants are key factors driving our belief that a booster dose will likely be necessary to maintain highest levels of protection,” Pfizer said in a statement.

The drug company said it would submit data to regulators within weeks showing that a booster at six months — a third shot of its original vaccine — caused antibody levels to shoot up five to 10 times higher than the original two-dose regimen. Moderna announced data from similar trials in May.

Pfizer also announced it would begin testing a booster shot specifically programmed to combat the delta variant in August.

Scientists applauded the statement from HHS saying boosters were not imminent. While many researchers anticipate a third shot may be needed and agree it is essential to prepare the shots to be deployed when warranted, they argue it is far from clear when that will be.

“My opinion right now, however, is that current vaccination seems to be largely ‘holding,’ ” said E. John Wherry, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “But the companies seem to suggest that their continued follow-up of their trial patients shows concerning levels of waning of immunity. Not much of these data from the companies are publicly available yet. I agree that we need as much independent data and assessment as possible on this topic.”

Natalie E. Dean, an expert in biostatistics at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, said it was important to be ready and to prepare boosters. But she said it was also crucial to distinguish between the role of the company in developing and testing whether boosters are safe and effective and the role of public health authorities in deciding when they should be launched.

“The company statement that they believe it’s needed is what created a lot of confusion,” Dean said. “Because I don’t know if they have access to different data than what we’re seeing, but what we’re seeing remains still a little murky — and also I think people can see the conflict of interest, too, for a company stating what the public needs.”

Pfizer spokeswoman Jerica Pitts did not directly respond to a question regarding assertions of a conflict of interest.

“We regularly discuss our entire research program with regulators and public health authorities in the U.S. and other countries around the world,” Pitts said.

In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service has outlined plans for booster shots to begin in September, targeted first to groups that include people who are immunosuppressed, people older than 70 and front-line health-care workers. Eventually, its boosters will be offered to people older than 50 and adults at high risk.

Some experts think boosters could be needed in the United States as soon as this fall, but others believe it could be years. Many predict that people will continue to be protected against serious cases of illness even as immunity wanes — and there is not yet a clear consensus on whether an increase in mild or asymptomatic cases will trigger policy recommendations for a third shot. Some foresee scenarios in which people in particular high-risk groups may need to be boosted sooner.

“No one is saying we’ll never need a booster, but to say we need it now and give the public the impression the vaccines are failing and something needs to be done as a matter of urgency. … The time isn’t now,” said John P. Moore, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medicine. “The decisions that are going to be made will be made by federal agencies.”

Moore expressed concern that Pfizer, which stands to benefit from selling coronavirus booster shots, was making an opportunistic announcement that could confuse people and undermine public trust in vaccines.

Pfizer announced in May that it projected global sales of its coronavirus vaccine to reach $26 billion in 2021. The company has also been frank that its current pricing — in the United States, $19.50 a shot — is temporary. On an earnings call in February, Frank A. D’Amelio, Pfizer’s executive vice president of global supply, noted that a more typical price for a vaccination was $150 or $175 per dose.

“Now, let’s go beyond a pandemic-pricing environment, the environment we’re currently in. Obviously, we’re going to get more on price,” D’Amelio said. “So clearly, there’s a significant opportunity for those margins to improve once we get beyond the pandemic environment that we’re in.”

A report by Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Sam Fazeli and John Murphy in May found that boosters could represent an $11 billion to $37 billion market each year globally. If vaccines have to be retooled to match new variants, that market could grow even more. Their modeling suggested that if Pfizer were to capture some of that business and sell more doses than currently expected in 2022, it could result in up to a 53 percent increase in the company’s operating profit.

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