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Pfizer scientist says elderly, those with health conditions to get Covid vaccine booster shots first

A healthcare worker gives the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to Norman G. Einspruch, 88, a cardiology patient, as part of COVID-19 vaccination plan for the seniors at the Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, United States on December 30, 2020.

Marco Bello | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

High-risk groups such as the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions are expected to be the first in line to get booster shots of the PfizerBioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer told investors Tuesday.

The two-dose vaccine has been shown to be about 95% effective against Covid two weeks after the second dose, though researchers who helped develop the shot now say they are beginning to see that strong protection wane over time.

Executives at Pfizer and BioNTech previously told CNBC that people will likely need a booster shot, or third dose, of the Covid-19 vaccine within 12 months of getting fully vaccinated. They also said it’s likely people will need to get additional shots each year.

During an earnings call Tuesday, Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, said it makes sense to start with those most susceptible, such as older adults and those with chronic diseases that make them more vulnerable to severe illness and hospitalization, such as cardiovascular disease or asthma.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes recommendations to states on who should get the shots first.

“We cannot predict” what the CDC will do, Dolsten said.

Dolsten’s comment comes after the company reported that sales of its Covid-19 vaccine boosted its first-quarter financial results.

The company now expects full-year sales of $26 billion from the vaccine, up from its previous forecast of about $15 billion. It expects an adjusted pretax profit in the high 20% range of revenue for the vaccine.

“Based on what we’ve seen, we believe that a durable demand for our Covid-19 vaccine, similar to that of the flu vaccines, is a likely outcome,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told investors on the earnings call.

Should Americans require booster shots, the U.S. government would likely need to make arrangements with the drugmakers to supply additional doses and make plans for vaccine distribution.

Last month, Andy Slavitt, senior advisor to President Joe Biden‘s Covid response team, said the White House is preparing for the potential need for Covid-19 vaccine booster shots. He said the Biden administration has thought about the need to secure additional doses.

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