5 Things You Should Know About the Fourth COVID Shot
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Both Pfizer and Moderna have requested authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a second booster of their COVID-19 vaccines.
Earlier this week, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said that a fourth dose is “necessary,” but there is debate over the effectiveness of multiple booster shots.
Here are 5 things you should know about a potential fourth shot:
1. Moderna requested authorization for all adults, but Pfizer is only for those 65 and older
Pfizer asked the FDA for emergency authorization for a fourth COVID shot for people over 65, and Moderna requested authorization for all adults.
Gigi Gronvall, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said that while it’s a “good idea” for people in high-risk groups to get a second booster, there could be “diminishing returns” for people outside of high-risk groups.
2. The White House said it can’t afford to cover a fourth dose
The Biden administration said that if another booster shot is needed, it wouldn’t be able to pay for enough doses for everyone.
“The federal government does not have adequate resources to purchase enough booster vaccine doses for all Americans, if additional doses are needed. The shortages will be even more acute if we need a variant-specific booster vaccine, since we will not have any existing supply,” the White House said.
3. Only a handful of countries have approved a fourth dose
Countries including Israel, Denmark, and Chile have been administering a fourth dose to high-risk groups.
A study from Israel found that a fourth shot only offered a small boost of protection.
4. Many Americans haven’t received any boosters
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 44% of fully vaccinated people in the U.S. have received a booster dose.
Roughly half of eligible Americans have yet to receive a booster shot, about 89 million people.
5. Experts are still split on a fourth dose
“I’m not yet convinced that the time is right now to go with a fourth dose. But if that waning protection against severe infection is clearly documented, and then if we see that a fourth dose can overcome that for more than just days to weeks, that would be something to consider,” said Jesse Goodman, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Medical Product Access, Safety, and Stewardship.
Meanwhile, Boston College epidemiologist Philip Landrigan said it was reasonable to be “cautiously optimistic” that a third dose is sufficient for now.
“There are just a lot of unknown unknowns here,” Landrigan said.
But former FDA official Henry Miller said he was “bullish” on the prospect of a fourth booster dose.
“I would love to see the summary that Pfizer presents to FDA,” Miller said. “But I don’t anticipate anything surprising. I mean we’ve been through this now with three doses. That is an extremely safe and very effective vaccine.”