Pfizer recommends third coronavirus jab, will Dutch Health Council agree?
Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer / BioNTech have recommended that a third “booster shot” is necessary in order to improve the long-term efficacy of their vaccine, especially amongst the elderly.
Does a third jab offer more protection against COVID-19?
For months, many medical experts have suspected that a third jab might be necessary to ensure long-term protection from COVID-19. Following a small study in Israel, Pfizer / BioNTech has become the first to confirm this theory, arguing that a so-called booster shot creates antibody levels that are five to 10 times higher than after the second dose.
Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, Mikael Dolsten, said the efficacy of the vaccine dipped from 95 percent to 64 percent after six months, making it less effective against the highly contagious Delta variant. He said a third dose administered within 12 months of the first jab offers promising protection against the virus, and that it would be particularly important amongst the elderly.
On Thursday, Pfizer announced plans to ask the US’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) for approval for a third jab. American health authorities have said US citizens don’t need to worry about receiving a third jab at the moment, and the EMA says it is too early to determine whether or not a third jab is actually necessary,
Will the Netherlands implement Pfizer's advice?
Israel has become the first country to follow Pfizer’s advice. For the past few weeks, members of the population with a weak immune system have been receiving a third dose, and from this weekend, everyone over the age of 60 will officially be given the option to receive their booster shot.
The Dutch government has asked the Health Council of the Netherlands to provide advice in regards to whether a third Pfizer dose is necessary, and the advice is expected to be published before the autumn. The Ministry of Health has already planned ahead and, together with the EU, has purchased around 35 million Pfizer doses which the Netherlands will receive over the next two years.
Some scientists have supported Pfizer’s argument, with Ger Rijkers, an immunologist in Tilburg, saying the amount of extra antibodies created by a booster shot is “impressive, especially in the elderly.” Meanwhile, molecular virologist Marjolein Kikkert emphasises that a decrease in antibodies doesn’t necessarily mean the vaccine no longer offers sufficient protection, and points out that it is more important to use extra doses to vaccinate people around the world and stop the spread of COVID-19 instead of using them for booster shots here in Europe. Others also argue that Pfizer's latest advice only serves to fill their own pockets.