Will a third booster dose be needed or not? Not all healthcare experts agree on the answer to that question. Not all COVID-19 vaccine makers seem to agree, either. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on July 28, Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss whether or not BioNTech (BNTX -0.88%) is contradicting its big partner, Pfizer (PFE -0.12%), about the need for booster doses.
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Keith Speights: Let's move to another COVID story. I think most of our viewers are aware that Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla hasn't been shy at all about stating his view that booster doses for COVID-19 vaccines will likely be needed. That's been Pfizer's stance for a while now.
But Uğur Şahin CEO of Pfizer's partner BioNTech, told The Wall Street Journal recently that he's not calling for a third booster shot yet. Brian, do you think these two CEOs of partner companies are contradicting each other or is there really more nuance to the story?
Brian Orelli: Yes. The problem here is that we really just don't know when people will need a booster shot until we see a lot of cases in COVID-19 in people who were treated early in the vaccination process. Pfizer's CEO seems to be arguing that there's enough data to say that we've reached that point, and BioNTech's CEO seems to be saying that the government should be making that decision.
It's not exactly polar opposites. Perhaps the implication by BioNTech's CEO is that there isn't enough data to say that yet, but I'm not sure that he's completely going that far. I tend to agree with BioNTech's CEO. It just depends on how conservative you want to be in terms of waiting for the booster shots.
I think obviously the more conservative governments are, the more that benefits the companies. If they want to be really conservative and give the booster shot when they first start seeing cases versus when they see enough cases to justify the booster shot, then that will obviously benefit both of these companies.
Speights: For what it's worth, I did see that Pfizer has released some preliminary data that seems to back up their view that booster doses would be helpful. I think this data shows much higher levels of neutralizing antibody levels with a third booster shot. I don't think it's been peer-reviewed yet. I'm sure they're sharing this with the FDA.
We'll see what happens here. But Brian, let me just get you to make a prediction here. At this point, do you foresee that Pfizer will win Emergency Use Authorization for a third booster dose before the end of this year?
Orelli: Before the end of this year, probably. That means they've got to file in maybe end of October, beginning of November. I think that's probably reasonable. That gives them four months of additional data.
We're definitely seeing breakthrough cases right now. It's how much breakthrough cases are there, but also what's the severity of those breakthrough cases. If it's going to be people mostly just have the equivalent of a cold or something between a cold and flu, then I'm not sure that the FDA is going to approve a booster dose considering that there are side effects involved, and so you're avoiding getting that level of severity of the disease, but you're exposing yourself to potential side effects from the booster dose.
The FDA has to weigh that out. It's not only the number of cases that are happening but also the severity of the cases is going to determine whether the FDA decides to go through with authorization of the booster dose and when it does.
Speights: Right. I do think the federal government is getting ready in case. The U.S. government has announced another supply order with Pfizer and BioNTech for 200 million doses. The country doesn't need those extra doses at this point unless third shots are going to be given. I think the U.S. is getting ready just in case that ends up being necessary.
Orelli: I think we're probably going to end up with booster shots eventually. It's just when exactly the timing of that is. I think it's still somewhat up in the air.