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Pfizer confirms: Yes, you’ll probably need a booster vaccine

Some people, including many readers, will be downcast by this, or angry, or feel that their suspicions have been validated. Personally, though, it is not something that overly concerns me, for reasons set out below. If it is necessary, then sign me up:

Pfizer says it plans to meet with top U.S. health officials Monday to discuss the drugmaker’s request for federal authorization of a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser acknowledged that “it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely” that booster shots will be needed.

The company said it was scheduled to have the meeting with the Food and Drug Administration and other officials Monday, days after Pfizer asserted that booster shots would be needed within 12 months.

Pfizer’s Dr. Mikael Dolsten told The Associated Press last week that early data from the company’s booster study suggests people’s antibody levels jump five- to 10-fold after a third dose, compared to their second dose months earlier — evidence it believes supports the need for a booster.

Covid-19 is not the flu. But it is a flu like illness that mutates regularly. As someone with a (mild) medical condition who is advised to get the flu jab every year, booster shots are nothing new to me, and this news should not be shocking, or surprising. Our immune systems and viruses are in a constant battle for supremacy. That is why viruses mutate. You develop immunity after an infection, so if the virus wants to use your body to reproduce (which is the ultimate ambition of the virus, not making you sick) a second time, then it has to change slightly into a form that your immune system no longer recognises.

All a vaccine does, of course, is give your immune system a head start on the virus. The problem is that over time, with a virus that mutates regularly, the virus will catch up. And if this is correct, then that is bad news not only for those of us who have been vaccinated, but also for those who have been infected and gained their immunity the old-fashioned way. Put another way: This is Pfizer saying that they think that you can get Covid, just like the flu, multiple times.

This is, of course – and let us not forget this – absolutely superb news for Pfizer. Because Covid is relatively more lethal than the flu, the news that people might need annual or semi-annual or biannual booster vaccines also means that Pfizer will have a source of profit and revenue on a global scale for years to come, potentially. If you have money sitting around and want to invest in a good stable share, Pfizer and its big pharma friends looks like a very good place to put it.

Of course, there is another factor here, if we think about the flu vaccine, and it is this: Not everybody gets the flu jab. Why? Because over the years, and decades, that humans have been facing down the flu, we have learned to identify people who are at risk, and people who are not at risk. If you are a healthy thirty-something, the flu should not be scary. In time, we will likely come to realise that the same is true of Covid. If you are not, statistically, at high risk of serious illness, then getting an annual covid booster shot probably does not make much sense.

For the older, and those with underlying conditions, though, it is very likely that the covid shot is going to end up being a second flu jab. That is where we are headed, whether any of us like it or not. It is good news for big pharma companies, and mildly annoying news – though news we should really have expected – for the rest of us.

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