The number of covid variants that have hit the US is no joke. Many experts are concerned about the lower efficacy of current vaccines on the market. According to Bill Gates, a third dose of coronavirus vaccine may be needed to prevent severe cases of covid-19.
Just last week, South Africa suspended the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine rollout after researchers reported ‘minimal’ protection against the coronavirus variant. And more recently, Pfizer vaccine was found to be less potent against the South African variant. Although the vaccine still works to some extent, it only produces a third of the antibodies it did for the original coronavirus.
“The discussion now is do we just need to get a super high coverage of the current vaccine, or do we need a third dose that’s just the same, or do we need a modified vaccine?” Gates told Norah O’Donnell of CBS News.
“All five of the companies that have U.S. vaccines are looking at making that modification and adding that in so that people who’ve already had two shots might need to get a third shot,” he said. “I think it’s reasonably likely that we will have a tuned vaccine just to make absolutely sure that as these variants hit the U.S. that they’re not escaping from vaccine protection.”
“AstraZeneca in particular has a challenge with the variant. And the other two, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, are slightly less effective, but still effective enough that we absolutely should get them out as fast as we can while we study this idea of tuning the vaccine,” Gates said.
If the coronavirus is not eradicated, he said, additional shots may be necessary in the future. “Probably not yearly, but as long as it’s out there, we want as many Americans as possible not to be spreading it to each other,” he said.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the FDA, told CBS News that he believed the vaccines currently being distributed in the U.S. would offer “reasonable protection” against the new variants, even if they are slightly less effective. Still, he said, it may also be necessary to administer booster shots in the fall.