Fauci Warns All Will ‘Likely’ Need Booster Shots Eventually Amid Vaccine ‘Diminution’
© AP Photo / Graeme JenningsDr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, testifies during a Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing on the federal government response to COVID-19 on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Washington
© AP Photo / Graeme Jennings
Annual influenza vaccines - flu shots - have become a cash cow for drugmakers, with some 175 million distributed in the 2019-2020 flu season. With the likelihood that COVID-19 will become similarly endemic, drugmakers like Pfizer have salivated at the profits to be made from “durable demand” for their life-saving vaccines.
The Biden administration’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned on Thursday amid talk of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) preparing to approve a booster shot of some COVID-19 vaccines for people vulnerable to the Delta variant that, eventually, everyone is likely to need another shot as the immune effects wear off.
“We’re already starting to see indications of some diminution” of vaccine effectiveness, Fauci told CBS on Thursday. The medical adviser heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), an elite medical research facility outside Washington, DC.
However, he cautioned that “we don’t feel at this particular point that, apart from the immune-compromised, we don’t feel we need to give boosters right now.”
“No vaccine, at least not within this category, is going to have an indefinite amount of protection,” Fauci later told NBC.
While the FDA is reportedly preparing to give emergency authorization for a third dose of the respective COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer- BioNTech and Moderna in order to boost the immune systems of vulnerable people, the corporate pharmaceutical giants have been preparing for the eventuality of booster shots for months.
© REUTERS / DADO RUVIC Vials with Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine labels are seen in this illustration picture taken March 19, 2021
Vials with Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine labels are seen in this illustration picture taken March 19, 2021
© REUTERS / DADO RUVIC
“[F]actors like efficacy, booster ability, clinical utility will basically become very important” when the primary buyers of vaccines become private customers instead of governments. “We view that as, quite frankly, a significant opportunity for our vaccine from a demand perspective, from a pricing perspective,” D'Amelio said, noting that in “normal market conditions,” the price per shot could rise by up to 900%.
Indeed, earlier this month, the Financial Times reported that in supply contracts with the European Union for billions of shots over the next two years, Pfizer hiked its prices by more than 25% and Moderna upped its prices by 10%. The deals came in the wake of worries about the effectiveness and safety of the cheaper vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson and Oxford-AstraZeneca, the latter of which has been the primary vaccine for the EU and many of its partners.
A new study by the Mayo Clinic, posted earlier this week on the medRxiv preprint server but which is awaiting full review, has claimed that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is more effective against the Delta variant of the virus than Pfizer’s vaccine is. The study found that across some of the worst-hit US states in July, breakthrough infections happened in almost twice as many people who received the Pfizer vaccine as had received the Moderna vaccine.
© REUTERS / PASCAL ROSSIGNOLFILE PHOTO: A health worker prepares a syringe with a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Calais as part of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination campaign in France, March 4, 2021.
FILE PHOTO: A health worker prepares a syringe with a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Calais as part of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination campaign in France, March 4, 2021.
© REUTERS / PASCAL ROSSIGNOL
As several First World nations with high vaccination rates - including the United States - began considering giving out third shots amid rapid spreading of the Delta variant in July, the World Health Organization urged them to focus on the larger goal of primary vaccination first, as billions of people in the Third World still haven’t gotten any kind of COVID-19 vaccine.
While the US has fallen behind Western Europe as well as its own rapid vaccination goals, for which it bought up some 1.5 billion shots, it is still well ahead of the poorest parts of the world. According to WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, just over 50% of the US population is vaccinated, but just 1.6% of the continent of Africa is vaccinated, and of the roughly 4 billion vaccine doses administered worldwide, 80% "have gone to high- and upper-middle income countries, even though they account for less than half of the world’s population."
The WHO chief warned last month that the growing disparity was leading to a "two-track pandemic - the haves are opening up, while the have-nots are locking down."
Despite Ghebreyesus’ comments, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the dilemma was a “false choice,” as the Biden administration believes it can “do both.”