Drugmaker Pfizer-BioNTech announced late Thursday that they are asking the US Food and Drug Administration to approve their new COVID booster shot, which they say would increase protection against the virus.
The companies started researching the effectiveness of a third booster shot back in February, as a way to protect against possible variants of COVID-19.
The new booster shot they have come up with does not specifically target any COVID variant, and US health officials have already said that the current vaccines on the market protect against the surging Delta variant.
But Pfizer-BioNTech say they have seen “encouraging data” that their booster shot, in general, provides more effective COVID protection when administered within six months after the second dose.
Separately, Pfizer said Thursday that it is working on a vaccine just to target the Delta variant, in case it is needed, and will begin clinical trials in August.
Some industry experts have warned that profit could be more a motivating factor for drug companies eager to get new vaccines approved by the FDA.
But Pfizer pointed to the situation in Israel: the nation saw a vaccine rollout that was earlier and more effective than in many other countries. Seven months later, however, vaccine effectiveness appears to be waning as the Delta variant spreads and the Israeli government has reinstated an indoor mask mandate.
In the US, the problem remains vaccine hesitancy colliding with the Delta variant, which may be more transmissible and more dangerous. Virtually all of the COVID deaths recorded in the US now are people who did not get any vaccine, and the Delta variant has become the dominant strain of COVID in the country.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that America is becoming highly fractured: many parts of the country are so well-protected from the virus that COVID deaths have all but vanished. But in pockets of the country, specifically in the South and Midwest, COVID cases have spike so much recently that some hospitals have had to turn patients away and put calls out for extra ventilators.