Booster shots are on the way for messenger RNA COVID-19 vaccines. And they'll be given eight months after the second dose. Or maybe six months later. Perhaps boosters won't really be needed for all Americans.
If you get the sense that the plan for COVID boosters isn't firmly settled yet, you're right. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on Sept. 1, 2021, Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss the changing stories about what will happen with booster shots.
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Keith Speights: Brian, let's start off with what's a back-and-forth story. We talked last week about the U.S. decision to move forward with the booster doses after eight months, and this is for the messenger RNA vaccines that are marketed by Pfizer (PFE 1.35%) and its partner, BioNTech (BNTX -0.40%), as well as by Moderna (MRNA -1.02%).
But on Monday of this week, we discussed some reports that the boosters would only be after six months instead of eight months. But then after you and I talked about that earlier this week, it now seems like the U.S. is sticking with the eight-month window as the interval.
What's going on, Brian, here? Will it really matter for these vaccine stocks.
Brian Orelli: I mean, why not just split the difference and go with seven months? [laughs]
Speights: Sure, yeah.
Orelli: I think this is largely just maybe scientific experts interpreting the data that's constantly being updated. For the vaccine makers, I don't think it really matters whether we go with six months or eight months, because the vaccines have already been purchased by the government for those booster doses. So whether they get used at six months or eight months probably doesn't matter that much.
The next one would probably be the next booster and the interval between what would be the third shot and the fourth shot. I think that's probably the bigger question financially for Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna. Right now they're going tp get their money either way, so it's just a matter of how long do we have to wait for the next booster and maybe even between the fourth and the fifth, and do we even need a fifth?
Those questions are a lot more important to the financial situation of Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna, than whether it's six months or eight months between the second and the third dose.
Speights: Yeah, this story is continuing to evolve, Brian. I saw some reports this morning that even when the Biden administration came out with this news about doing boosters, they said it's pending FDA authorization or approval, and the CDC has to give its blessing.
Well, the CDC committee has been in some discussions and it may or may not give its blessing to everyone getting a booster, so this could just be limited to healthcare workers and people who are at risk.
Do you have any predictions there? Do you think it's going to roll out to everyone or do you think this is going to be a limited booster rollout?
Orelli: Yeah, I think there are some risks involved in getting the vaccine. You don't want to just give the vaccine to everybody if not everybody actually needs it. Your chances of dying from the vaccine are very low. But if your chances of dying without getting the booster are also very low, then it doesn't make sense to actually give you the booster.
People who are at higher exposure or older adults who are more frail and more likely to succumb to the virus and not be able to fight it off, those are the type of people who would probably make most sense for the risk-reward benefit of getting a booster compared to the side effects. They would benefit the most, and so I think it would make sense that we would start with those rather than starting based on how long has it been since you've got the booster.
That makes sense, too, those are similar because healthcare workers and older people got the vaccines first. We'll just have to wait and see what the government ends up doing.
I was a little surprised that the CDC had a meeting over the last two days, Monday and Tuesday, and I was surprised they didn't do any major votes that they would tell people when to get the vaccines. We're going to have to wait until they meet again before we get an actual recommendation, I think.
Speights: Right, I don't doubt that the FDA will either probably authorize the third dose. I would be surprised if that doesn't happen, and I would expect that if the FDA does give that authorization, there could be maybe some political pressure on the CDC to go along if just the Biden administration has already come out and said, "We want all Americans who, at least it's been eight months since their second vaccine to get a booster."
I would think there's going to be a lot of pressure on the CDC here.
Orelli: Yeah, but I'm not sure that committee is independent, and so I'm not sure how much they're going to cave into political will.
Speights: Yeah, this is going to be interesting to see what happens. Of course, you and I will probably be talking about this for several more weeks, at least, [laughs] as the story unfolds. Probably months. I think you're right, Brian.