AstraZeneca CEO: ‘Not clear yet’ if boosters are needed

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The CEO of AstraZeneca said it is “not clear yet” if booster shots will be needed to maintain protection with its COVID-19 vaccine.

Pascal Soriot told CNBC on Thursday that the company does not have a “precise answer” on if booster shots will be needed because there are “two dimensions” to the shot’s immunity: antibodies and T-cells.

Soriot said that while antibody levels typically decline over time, the AstraZeneca vaccine has a “very high production of T-cells” with the technology they use.

He later noted, however, that the company has not yet seen a decline in efficacy, adding that “it’s a little bit early to judge, only time will tell.”

“So we are hoping that we can have a durable vaccine that protects for long period of times. So whether we will need a third booster or not is not clear yet, only time will tell,” Soriot said.

“The only way to know is really to watch whether efficacy declines over time,” he added.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has not yet been approved in the United States. A number of countries limited the use of the vaccine in past months because of a potential link to rare blood clots.

The conversation surrounding the possibility of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots has increased in recent weeks as new studies are finding that the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines may decline after a few months.

There is also increased concern about the highly infectious delta variant, which has spread rapidly in the U.S. and is now the dominant strain in the country.

Pfizer on Wednesday said a third shot of its COVID-19 vaccine “strongly” boosts protection against the delta variant. The company earlier this month said it will be applying to the Food and Drug Administration for authorization for a third shot.

Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on Sunday it is likely that vulnerable people who have already been inoculated against COVID-19 will need a booster shot.

“You have got to look at the data. And the data that’s evolving from Israel and from Pfizer indicates that it looks like there might be some diminution in protection. And when you have that, the most vulnerable people are the ones that you were talking about a moment ago, namely, people who have suppressed immune systems, those who are transplant patients, cancer chemotherapy, autoimmune diseases, that are on immunosuppressive regimens,” Fauci said.

“Those are the kind of individuals that, if there’s going to be a third boost, which might likely happen, would be among first the vulnerable. And the ACIP, which met on July 22, they discussed that in some detail and continue to look at the data that might push us in that direction,” Fauci added, referring to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which publishes recommendations on utilizing vaccines to control diseases in the U.S.

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