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Europe Recommends Pfizer Boosters for Ages 18 and Up: Could the U.S. Soon Follow?

By Keith Speights and Brian Orelli, PhD – Oct 16, 2021 at 9:01AM

Key Points

  • Europe is now allowing all individuals ages 18 and up to receive Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine boosters.
  • The U.S. is taking a more conservative approach.
  • Boosters could be expanded in the U.S. if COVID-19 breakthrough cases increase significantly.

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It depends mainly on the number of breakthrough cases of COVID-19.

So far, the U.S. has only authorized boosters for Pfizer's (PFE -0.68%) and BioNTech's (BNTX -0.77%) COVID-19 vaccine for individuals ages 65 and up and anyone ages 18 and older who are immunocompromised. However, the European Medicines Agency recently recommended a Pfizer-BioNTech booster for all individuals ages 18 and older. In this Motley Fool Live video, recorded on Oct. 6, Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss whether or not the U.S. could soon follow in Europe's footsteps.

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Keith Speights: Let's switch to another story on COVID-19. The European Medicines Agency on Monday of this week recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot for individuals ages 18 and up, and the U.S. hasn't gone that far yet with this booster authorizations. More data is on the way about boosters, though.

Do you think, Brian, that the U.S. could soon follow Europe by expanding the number of Americans who are eligible to receive these Pfizer-BioNTech boosters?

Brian Orelli: I think it largely depends on the breakthrough cases. They'll be determined by the vaccine rates and then partially by the number of people who have been immunized because they got COVID-19 and then the variants and do we get a worse variant than the delta variant and then the levels that the antibodies are right now, and then how much do they drop off. Those three combined are going to determine the breakthrough cases and then how many breakthrough cases we're getting is probably going to determine whether the FDA and the CDC end up authorizing boosters more broadly.

The CDC's Advisory Committee has been fairly conservative right now and I think that's due to known side effects, but those unknown variables that I just mentioned. Then obviously, people who have a high chance of dying from COVID should get the booster and they've already authorized the boosters for those people. But if you have an extremely low chance of dying and a slightly higher chance of getting a side effect, then it really doesn't make sense to get one.

We have to get to the point where your chance of dying is high enough to justify the side effects. I think right now, we're not at that level for a lot of people and so that's the reason why the FDA and the CDC haven't authorized them yet.

Speights: As you and I have talked about before, at least over the short term, what happens with this really isn't going to matter that much financially for Pfizer or BioNTech. The U.S. has already ordered enough doses to give every American who has received this vaccine a booster dose. I don't know that it's going to be a big catalyst for either of these stocks, certainly not over the near term.

Orelli: We're looking at the fourth booster and the fifth booster. Whether the valuations are right or wrong is going to be determined by whether they can continue to sell their vaccines into the 2023-2024 range.

Keith Speights owns shares of Pfizer. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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