LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Pfizer's leaders met with U.S. health officials to discuss the authorization for the use of a third dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, but local health experts believe more information is needed before people start lining up for a booster shot.
"Would an emergency use authorization come for a third dose? I think that's going to be a difficult proposition for them to get through, particularly when we still have a large portion of our own country that has still not gotten the vaccine," said Dr. Jason Smith, UofL Health's chief medical officer.
Smith said a booster shot for vaccines are not uncommon, but they are usually deployed when the vaccine's efficacy has worn off or it becomes ineffective against new variants of viruses. Smith said at this point, the three vaccines on the market in the United States — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — are all still effective against the rapidly spreading Delta variant.
"If we begin to see a large influx of people that get a vaccine with this first group that then develop COVID, which we are currently not seeing, that would be the next indicator that, hey, we need to start doing a booster because more and more people are starting to phase out of their immunity," he said.
Israel became the first country to offer a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine to adults who are severely immunocompromised. Smith said with more than half of the U.S. population still without their first coronavirus vaccine dose, it will be tough for Pfizer to receive emergency authorization for a booster.
"The bigger question becomes what's it going to take to feel safe and comfortable about getting the vaccine because it is by far the most protection that we have for all the variants that we are currently seeing," he said.
Smith said if the vaccines start wearing off, the first wave of vaccinated people who would be affected will be first responders and healthcare workers. As the very first Kentuckian to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, Smith said he will be ready if the science and data show there is a need for a booster.
"When and if a booster is required, I will be happy to step up and get a booster if that's what we need," he said, "I just think we will have to have some more information brought to us objectively to say that's what's going to be required."