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Will you need a new coronavirus vaccine every year? Here’s what Pfizer’s CEO says

March 1st, 2021 at 6:18 PM
Coronavirus vaccine
  • Since December, more than 75 million coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered in the US in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Now, the discussion is turning to the longer-term fight against the coronavirus.
  • We’ll probably have to get vaccinated against COVID-19 regularly, similar to the way people get an annual flu shot.

With around 75.2 million coronavirus vaccine doses now having been administered in the US since vaccinations began back in December, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker, we’re up to a pace of 1.74 million vaccinations in the country, on average, now.

Meanwhile, a new coronavirus vaccine from Johnson & Johnson has been authorized for emergency use in the US, meaning there’s now a mix of three COVID-19 vaccines that are helping get the pandemic under control. More vaccines being available, of course, makes the job of vaccinating everyone against the virus much easier — to the point that, now, the talk is turning to what comes after the race to get these shots into peoples’ arms as quickly as possible. To that point, just as people tend to get a flu vaccination once a year, now there’s discussion about how often we’ll need to receive a jab going forward to stay protected against the coronavirus.

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It’s generally understood that these COVID vaccinations don’t offer long-term protection — and, accordingly, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla recently told NBC News that the COVID shots probably ought to become a regular thing.

“Every year, you need to go to get your flu vaccine,” Bourla said, pointing out during the interview that viruses are expected to mutate, which is why COVID shots should become something we get annually. “It’s going to be the same with COVID. In a year, you will have to go and get your annual shot for COVID to be protected.”

The question that we don’t have an answer for yet is just how much protection a COVID shot provides, which would tell us when it’s time to get a booster shot. Pfizer, for its part, has booster shot trials underway now involving patients who got their first COVID vaccine dose between six months and a year ago, in an attempt to help answer that question.

And it’s not just Pfizer’s chief executive who’s saying this, about regular COVID shots. Moderna is the other major drugmaker to have a COVID vaccine approved for emergency use in the US, and its CEO Stéphane Bancel likewise thinks COVID is here to stay (and so are regular vaccine doses against it). “SARS-CoV-2 is not going away,” Bancel said during the recent JPMorgan Healthcare Conference. “We are going to live with this virus, we think, forever.”

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Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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