Additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine may be needed to protect against variants, Tampa doctor says

Coronavirus

TAMPA (WFLA) – An infectious disease expert tells 8 On Your Side the potential need for additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to provide better protection against an evolving coronavirus.

More than a year into the pandemic, the director of the infectious diseases division at USF Health Dr. Kami Kim says it is a race between vaccinations and new variants of the virus.

“The vaccines are creating an incredibly valuable weapon on our side to kill off the virus and so then the virus mutates,” Dr. Kim said.

Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla said during a pre-taped event with CVS Health that the virus variants will play a critical role in determining the need for additional shots.

“The likely scenario is that there will likely be a need for a third dose somewhere between six and 12 months, and then from there, there will be an annual vaccination,” Bourla said, “but all of that needs to be confirmed.”

Data released by Pfizer earlier this month found its COVID-19 vaccine was more than 91% effective at protecting against COVID-19 and more than 95% effective against severe disease up to six months after the second dose.

“It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus,” Bourla said.

Dr. Kim said the variant that has been detected the most in Tampa Bay is the more transmissible B.1.1.7 strain first identified in the UK. She added that the variant has infected a very small number of people locally who already got shots in their arms.

“I think the vaccine is working because people aren’t that sick but still it indicates these variants are something to take very seriously,” Dr. Kim said.

Just like the flu shot that changes from year to year, Dr. Kim said both Pfizer and Moderna will be able to adjust their mRNA vaccines to better protect against an evolving coronavirus.

“The really fantastic thing about the technology is you can rejigger the vaccine so that you can make something that’s different pretty quickly and pretty efficiently,” Dr. Kim said.

Dr. Kim said people should still get vaccinated after a covid-19 recovery.

According to the CDC, so far only 36 percent of Floridians have received at least one dose of vaccine.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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