Pfizer Says It Would Take This Long to Make a Delta Variant Vaccine
A booster shot designed to protect against this COVID variant wouldn't happen overnight.
The Delta variant has raised new concerns for people in the U.S.—even those who are fully vaccinated. Vaccine companies are scrambling to find a solution, and many Americans are eager for another dose. But with the Delta variant dominating the country, there's some debate over whether it would be best to get a third dose of an existing vaccine or wait for something designed specifically to protect against this highly infectious iteration of the virus. Now, Pfizer has revealed how long it would take to get a Delta variant vaccine booster.
On Aug. 11, Pfizer told Axios that the company expects "to be able to develop and produce a tailor-made vaccine against that variant in approximately 100 days after a decision to do so, subject to regulatory approval." This comment comes after a new preprint study which found that the current Pfizer vaccine's effectiveness drops significantly when combating the Delta variant.
The study, conducted by nfrence and the Mayo Clinic and published to medRxiv on Aug. 8, found that Pfizer's COVID vaccine was only 42 percent effective against the virus in July when Delta was the dominant variant. This is a dramatic drop in protection from the vaccine's 95 percent efficacy in clinical trials. The study also found that Moderna's vaccine's effectiveness dropped to 76 percent in July, though the data showed that both vaccines' protection against severe disease was not significantly diminished against the Delta variant.
So, what does that mean for people hoping to bulk up their protection? On July 28, Pfizer shared data that showed a third dose of its vaccine could significantly boost protection beyond what the standard two-dose regimen currently affords. That booster shot would not be specifically formulated to combat Delta, but the additional dose could still up effectiveness.
Meanwhile, the July 28 report from Pfizer revealed that the first batch of a Delta variant vaccine has been manufactured, and clinical studies are projected to begin sometime in August, subject to regulatory approvals. On Aug. 9, Fortune reported that Pfizer's partner BioNTech plans to begin testing an altered form of the COVID vaccine to see if it can help provide stronger protection against the Delta variant, with the results of this clinical trial expected to arrive in the fourth quarter.
The other company that developed an mRNA vaccine against COVID is also in the process of making a booster shot. On June 8, during the Forbes Health in Action Summit, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said the current COVID vaccines are likely not enough to protect people long-term in the wake of emerging variants. He went on to predict that Moderna's booster shots would start going into arms sometime in the fall or winter, noting that it's better to be "two months too early boosting than two months too late."