FDA’s Dr. Peter Marks: Vaccinated People May Need COVID Booster Within a Year

FDA's Dr. Peter Marks: Vaccinated People May Need COVID Booster Within a Year peter marks sits at a table and speaks Dr. Peter Marks, testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on March 18, 2021. (Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images)

By Jim Thomas | Tuesday, 18 May 2021 07:17 PM

Manufacturers of the COVID vaccines and the scientific community are embracing the possibility that COVID booster shots may be required in the next year.

“…You know, it would be nice if it’ll turn out that it’ll be a year before anyone might need a booster,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research said Tuesday during a virtual press conference on the COVID-19 vaccines with high school and middle school journalists, reported CNBC.

“But we still don’t know,” he added. “It could be more; it could be a little less but … this is just something we’re gonna have to figure out as we go.”

Dr. Marks, FDA’s top vaccine regulator said that the current versions of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID vaccines are highly successful at preventing the disease and appear to protect against the variants circulating in the United States.

Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said U.S. regulators and scientists still do not know how far immunity levels need to drop in vaccinated individuals before it leaves them vulnerable to the virus, prompting the need for a booster shot like for the seasonal flu.

“As far as variants go, we’re just going to have to determine that currently the immune response to these vaccines is being tested against all the variants to see how strong it is against each of the variants. And we just hope a variant doesn’t arise that can elude our vaccines,” she said.

Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID vaccines currently require two doses given three to four weeks apart, while Johnson & Johnson’s shot requires just one shot. All three vaccines have been shown to be highly effective against COVID, though company executives now say they expect that strong protection to wane over time.

BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin told CNBC in a recent interview that researchers are seeing a decline in antibody responses against the virus after eight months.

“If we provide a boost, we could really amplify the antibody response even above the levels that we had at the beginning and that could give us real comfort for protection for at least 12 months, maybe 18 months,” Sahin said. “And this is really important in a time where all the variants are coming in.”

Last week, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CNBC that the U.S. is planning for the potential need for COVID vaccine booster shots “just in case.”