Covid-19 Live Updates: Pfizer and Others Plan for Vaccine Boosters – The New York Times
Scientists have long said that giving people a single course of a Covid-19 vaccine might not be sufficient in the long term, and that booster shots and even annual vaccinations might prove necessary.
In recent days, that proposition has begun to sound less hypothetical.
Vaccine makers are getting a jump-start on possible new rounds of shots, although they sound more certain of the need for boosters than independent scientists have.
Pfizer’s chief executive Albert Bourla said on Thursday that a third dose of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine was “likely” to be needed within a year of the initial two-dose inoculation — followed by annual vaccinations.
Dr. David Kessler, who runs the Biden administration’s vaccine effort, told a House subcommittee on Thursday that the government was also looking ahead. One factor at play is the spread of coronavirus variants and whether further vaccination could better target mutant strains.
Mr. Bourla said that “a likely scenario” is “a third dose somewhere between six and 12 months, and from there it would be an annual re-vaccination.” Moderna said this week that it was at work on a booster for its vaccine, and Johnson & Johnson has said that its single-shot vaccine will probably need to be given annually.
Dr. Kessler emphasized the “strong efficacy” of the current vaccines, including against the variants, but said that the government was “taking steps to develop next generation of vaccines that are directed against these variants if in fact they can be more effective.”
He was one of a handful of top federal health officials at the House hearing who implored Americans to get vaccinated and sought to reassure the nation that all three federally authorized vaccines are safe. They said little about restarting Johnson & Johnson shots, which the Food and Drug Administration paused to examine a rare blood-clotting disorder.
Late Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had scheduled a new emergency hearing for April 23.
As of Thursday, more than 125 million people in the country had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, including about 78 million who have been fully vaccinated by Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine or the two-dose series made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
In February, Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, said that they planned to test a third shot and to update their original vaccine. The F.D.A. has said that vaccine developers will not need to conduct lengthy trials for vaccines that have been adapted to protect against variants.
On Tuesday, Moderna said that its vaccine continued to provide strong protection in the United States against Covid-19 six months after it is given, and the company’s chief executive, Stéphane Bancel, told CNBC that he hoped to have booster shots ready by the fall.
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Ashish Anand had dreams of becoming a fashion designer. The former flight attendant borrowed from relatives and poured his $5,000 life savings into opening a clothing shop outside New Delhi selling custom-designed suits, shirts and pants.
That was in February 2020, just weeks before the coronavirus struck India and the government enacted one of the world’s toughest nationwide lockdowns.
Unable to pay the rent, Mr. Anand closed down two months later.
As a second coronavirus wave strikes India, which reported a new daily high of more than 216,000 cases on Friday, the pandemic is undoing decades of progress for a country that has brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Already, deep structural problems and the sometimesimpetuousnature of the government’s policies had hindered growth. A shrinking middle class would deal lasting damage.
Now Mr. Anand and his wife and his two children are among millions of Indians in danger of sliding out of the middle class and into poverty. They depend on handouts from his in-laws, and khichdi — watery lentils cooked with rice — has replaced eggs and chicken at the dinner table.
Sometimes, he said, the children go to bed hungry.
“I have nothing left in my pocket,” he said.
This has been a spring of reopenings around New York City.
Bars, restaurants, hotels, movie theaters and even amusement parks are coming back to life after the shutdown. Rather than just turn on the lights and open the doors, many owners have sought to celebrate with meaningful gestures.
When Coney Island reopened its amusement park this month, the first passengers to ride the Cyclone, the 90-year-plus wooden roller coaster there, were 100 essential workers from nearby Coney Island Hospital who had been selected in a raffle.
One of the riders was Dawn Lanzisera, who works in the psychiatric emergency room and grew up near the Brooklyn neighborhood. “It’s so great to be here and see life return,” she said.
As soon as the speeches had concluded and the gates had opened, the rickety roller coaster cars, filled with hospital employees, started their climb to the top, one that offered stunning views of the ocean and boardwalk.
As the coaster plunged 85 feet, the screams may have reflected the release of a pandemic year’s worth of tensions.
The European Union is unlikely to buy new doses of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines, a French minister said on Friday, the first public comment from a government official indicating that the bloc will do without two vaccines it long counted on to move out of the pandemic.
France’s industry minister, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, told RMC radio that although no final decision had been made, “it is highly probable” that no further doses of the vaccines would be ordered.
Several European countries briefly suspended the administration of AstraZeneca vaccine last month before resuming it, recommending use in older age groups only.
“We have not started talks with Johnson & Johnson or with AstraZeneca for a new contract, but we have started talks with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna,” Ms. Pannier-Runacher said.
The comment came days after the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, said that it was negotiating a contract extension with Pfizer/BioNTech, pivoting away form AstraZeneca’s vaccine on which it had initially bet big.
“We need to focus on technologies that have proven their worth,” Ursula von der Leyen, the Commission’s president, said of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Four more prefectures in Japan will be placed under quasi-emergency restrictions next week as health officials recorded more than 4,570 new coronavirus cases on Friday. The measures will go into effect on Tuesday in three prefectures neighboring Tokyo, as well as the prefecture surrounding the city of Nagoya, joining six others where restrictions were put in place earlier this month. The rules allow local authorities to order bars and restaurants to curtail their hours, and issue fines to those that don’t comply. While Japan has controlled the coronavirus better than most nations, a fourth wave of infections has added to concerns over the Tokyo Olympics, which are due to begin in less than 100 days.
A company in South Korea said it would lead a consortium in manufacturing more than 100 million Sputnik-V vaccine doses per month beginning in August, reflecting growing interest globally in the Russian-made shot. The announcement, by Huons Global, came days after India’s government said it would begin production of the Sputnik vaccine for domestic use and export, joining about 60 countries that have approved use of the shot. The Russian sovereign wealth fund backing the Sputnik vaccine has a separate deal with another Korean manufacturer to produce 150 million doses per month.
Shashank Bengali and Hisako Ueno contributed reporting.
In Paraguay, the government of Taiwan has built thousands of homes for the poor, upgraded the health care system, awarded hundreds of scholarships and helped fund a futuristic Congress building. But the alliance is facing an existential threat as Paraguay’s quest for Covid-19 vaccines becomes increasingly desperate.
Paraguayan officials across the political spectrum say the time has come to consider dumping Taiwan, which doesn’t export vaccines, to establish diplomatic ties with China, which does.
Beijing’s one-China principle forces countries to choose between having full diplomatic relations with China or Taiwan, an island that it regards as Chinese territory. In recent years, three countries in Latin America severed ties with Taiwan after secret talks with Beijing. All three were early recipients of Chinese vaccines.
This week China’s main Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer, Sinovac, made a gesture that is certain to fuel speculation about Beijing’s plans in Paraguay. The South American soccer federation Conmebol, which is based in Paraguay, said it was receiving a donation of 50,000 doses of CoronaVac, the vaccine produced by Sinovac.
The price of plane tickets, which are typically purchased well in advance, is a mark of how people feel about the economy. And in the week after March 11, when President Biden set a goal for returning much of America to regular life by July 4, airfare prices for summer travel shot up, according to data from the travel booking app Hopper.
In addition, days after the speech, a tranche of federal stimulus checks arrived in bank accounts.
“During that shift in mid-March, there wasn’t a change in supply, but there was a big change in sentiment,” said Adit Damodaran, Hopper’s chief economist. “A lot of people started to think, ‘Maybe I could start to plan that summer vacation.’”
Airlines are feeling optimistic. Southwest Airlines is recalling all flight attendants from voluntary extended leave beginning June 1. As of late March, American Airlines had returned to 90 percent of its 2019-level bookings.
If 2020 was the summer of the pandemic-enforced road trip, many people seem to be hoping that 2021 will be the summer they can travel overseas.
Some airlines have eyed May to expand international flights as vaccines become more available. Global hotel companies are preparing for more guests, and tour companies are ramping up. Trips that emphasize the outdoors and uncrowded places have become even more popular compared with last year.
“Hoteliers are chafing at the bit” to reopen and are able to do so quickly, said Robin Rossman, the managing director of the hospitality analytics company STR. The global hotel sector, though, will likely take up to two years to make a full return, he said.