COVID-19 vaccine (generic)

A COVID-19 vaccination is administered.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will likely need a third shot within six to 12 months.

There is also a chance that the vaccine will need to be administered annually. That's according to Pfizer's CEO Albert Bourla. But local doctors say it's not unanticipated, and that boosters were always a possibility.

"I think the important thing to get out to people is this is not actually that unanticipated," U of L Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jason Smith said in an interview with WDRB News Friday afternoon. "I think we were always looking at probably needing, you know, yearly boosters or every year or two, and I still think there's a lot of information that still has to come out from the studies that Pfizer is doing on how long that vaccine works for us."

While real-world data is showing that protection provided by Pfizer's vaccine goes down over time, Bourla said it was still extremely high after six months.

Based on that data, Bourla said he thinks there will be a need for a booster shot somewhere between six and 12 months after someone gets the second dose of the vaccine, then annual re-vaccinations will be needed.

But, all of that information still needs to be confirmed, and doctors say more information will likely be released later this year.

"I think we're getting the first information out around that first, that six-month mark is why that's kind of being set. Really over the next six months is when a lot more information will be coming out," Smith said. "My guess is this will probably land somewhere around a one-year booster, and we may need to turn this into kind of an annual shot similar to what we do with the flu shot every year."

A report out on Thursday said nearly 6,000 people who had been vaccinated against coronavirus became infected anyway, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some became seriously ill and 74 of them died. The CDC said 396 — 7% — of those who got infected after they were vaccinated required hospitalization. But doctors say that shouldn't prevent people from getting the vaccine.

"Well I think the important part is the denominator there. There were 66 million people vaccinated, and of that group that was vaccinated only 6,000 actually got the disease," Smith said. "So you're talking a fraction of a thousands of a percentage of the person actually getting that. Compared to a general population, unvaccinated, that would probably get this at a rate of a little less than 1% of those that are actually exposed to the virus. So it's still very protective compared to what we're seeing out there with people that are not vaccinated."

This week, President Joe Biden's administration's COVID-19 response team said the government is already making plans in case booster shots are needed later. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci said there's also an effort to create a universal booster vaccine that would cover all different types of COVID-19 variants.

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