COVID-19 booster doses will help protect against variants, but will drive global vaccination inequality, says GlobalData

Following the news that the US government is planning to recommend COVID-19 booster doses for all residents eight months after full vaccination;

Philipp Rosenbaum, PhD, Senior Healthcare Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:

“Initial data from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Novavax shows that a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, given 6 to 7 months after the second dose, increases protection against the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 strain, as well as against virus variants. Thus, the plan to recommend a third vaccine dose (or second in the case of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine) is an important decision. Furthermore, a third dose could also broaden the protection and potentially create immunity against emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants. However, this decision will further increase the gap in protection against the novel coronavirus and its variants between high- and low-income countries. Globally, less than 25% of people have been fully vaccinated, while only 85 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in all of Africa.

“Also, countries like Germany, France, the UK, and Israel are planning to recommend a third dose for immunocompromised people before the colder season in the Northern Hemisphere begins. A strategy that could prioritize high-risk people in highly vaccinated countries, while making sure enough vaccine doses reach regions in which only a small percentage of the population is fully vaccinated, might be a compromise to prevent the gap in protection from broadening further. Eventually, once COVID-19 vaccine supply is a non-issue, a third dose, like for other vaccines, especially childhood vaccines, will be a good strategy to create long-term protection against SARS-CoV-2.

“Additionally, should variants emerge that escape the immune response of people who have received three doses of the vaccine, variant-specific boosters that are currently in development will again be needed, especially for those at high risk, like the elderly, immune-compromised, and healthcare workers. These will be the groups most affected by new SARS-CoV-2 variants, which will continue to emerge until most of the world’s population is vaccinated.”

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