Booster Shots May Be Needed, Drugmakers and Scientists Say

Pfizer’s chief executive said that a third dose would “likely” be needed within a year of the initial two-doses. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.,

LiveUpdated April 16, 2021, 5:41 a.m. ETApril 16, 2021, 5:41 a.m. ET

Paraguay considers switching allegiance from Taiwan to China as it eyes vaccines. New York’s restaurants and attractions are reopening with flair.

A nurse preparing vaccine doses at a medical office in Los Angeles this month.
A nurse preparing vaccine doses at a medical office in Los Angeles this month.Credit…Allison Zaucha for The New York Times

Scientists have long said that giving people a single course of a Covid-19 vaccine might not be sufficient in the long term, and that booster shots and even annual vaccinations might prove necessary.

In recent days, that proposition has begun to sound less hypothetical.

Vaccine makers are getting a jump-start on possible new rounds of shots, although they sound more certain of the need for boosters than independent scientists have.

Pfizer’s chief executive said on Thursday that a third dose of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine would “likely” be needed within a year of the initial two-dose inoculation — followed by annual vaccinations.

“There are vaccines like polio where one dose is enough, and there are vaccines like flu that you need every year, ” Albert Bourla, the Pfizer chief, said in a conversation hosted by CVS Health. “The Covid virus looks more like the influenza virus than the polio virus.”

Dr. David Kessler, who runs the Biden administration’s vaccine effort, told a House subcommittee on Thursday that the government was also looking ahead. One factor at play is the spread of coronavirus variants and whether further vaccination could better target mutant strains.

Mr. Bourla said that “a likely scenario” is “a third dose somewhere between six and 12 months, and from there it would be an annual re-vaccination.” Moderna said this week that it was at work on a booster for its vaccine, and Johnson & Johnson has said that its single-shot vaccine will probably need to be given annually.

Dr. Kessler emphasized the “strong efficacy” of the current vaccines, including against the variants, but said that the government was “taking steps to develop next generation of vaccines that are directed against these variants if in fact they can be more effective.”

He was one of a handful of top federal health officials at the House hearing who implored Americans to get vaccinated and sought to reassure the nation that all three federally authorized vaccines are safe. They said little about restarting Johnson & Johnson shots, which the Food and Drug Administration paused to examine a rare blood-clotting disorder.

Late Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had scheduled a new emergency hearing for April 23.

As of Thursday, more than 125 million people in the country had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, including about 78 million who have been fully vaccinated by Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine or the two-dose series made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

In February, Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, said that they planned to test a third shot and to update their original vaccine. The F.D.A. has said that vaccine developers will not need to conduct lengthy trials for vaccines that have been adapted to protect against variants.

On Tuesday, Moderna said that its vaccine continued to provide strong protection in the United States against Covid-19 six months after it is given, and the company’s chief executive, Stephane Bancel, told CNBC that he hoped to have booster shots ready by the fall.

United States > United StatesOn Apr. 15 14-day change
New cases 74,367 +8%
New deaths 912 -16%
World > WorldOn Apr. 15 14-day change
New cases 823,197 +25%
New deaths 13,434 +17%

U.S. vaccinations >

Where states are reporting vaccines given

Fully vaccinated

At least one dose

Other trackers:

Ashish Anand, 38, and Akanksha Chadda, 33, with their children, 8-year-old Rehan and 4-year-old Gunika, outside their home in Noida, India.
Ashish Anand, 38, and Akanksha Chadda, 33, with their children, 8-year-old Rehan and 4-year-old Gunika, outside their home in Noida, India.Credit…Smita Sharma for The New York Times

Ashish Anand had dreams of becoming a fashion designer. The former flight attendant borrowed from relatives and poured his $5,000 life savings into opening a clothing shop outside New Delhi selling custom-designed suits, shirts and pants.

That was in February 2020, just weeks before the coronavirus struck India and the government enacted one of the world’s toughest nationwide lockdowns.

Unable to pay the rent, Mr. Anand closed down two months later.

As a second coronavirus wave strikes India, which reported a new daily high of more than 216,000 cases on Friday, the pandemic is undoing decades of progress for a country that has brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Already, deep structural problems and the sometimes impetuous nature of the government’s policies had hindered growth. A shrinking middle class would deal lasting damage.

Now Mr. Anand and his wife and his two children are among millions of Indians in danger of sliding out of the middle class and into poverty. They depend on handouts from his in-laws, and khichdi — watery lentils cooked with rice — has replaced eggs and chicken at the dinner table.

Sometimes, he said, the children go to bed hungry.

“I have nothing left in my pocket,” he said.

A healthcare worker prepares a vaccine dose in Asuncion on Wednesday. Paraguay is considering establishing ties with China to obtain more vaccine.
A healthcare worker prepares a vaccine dose in Asuncion on Wednesday. Paraguay is considering establishing ties with China to obtain more vaccine.Credit…Santi Carneri for The New York Times

In Paraguay, the government of Taiwan has built thousands of homes for the poor, upgraded the health care system, awarded hundreds of scholarships and helped fund a futuristic Congress building. But the alliance is facing an existential threat as Paraguay’s quest for Covid-19 vaccines becomes increasingly desperate.

Paraguayan officials across the political spectrum say the time has come to consider dumping Taiwan, which doesn’t export vaccines, to establish diplomatic ties with China, which does.

Beijing’s one-China principle forces countries to choose between having full diplomatic relations with China or Taiwan, an island that it regards as Chinese territory. In recent years, three countries in Latin America severed ties with Taiwan after secret talks with Beijing. All three were early recipients of Chinese vaccines.

This week China’s main Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer, Sinovac, made a gesture that is certain to fuel speculation about Beijing’s plans in Paraguay. The South American soccer federation Conmebol, which is based in Paraguay, said it was receiving a donation of 50,000 doses of CoronaVac, the vaccine produced by Sinovac.

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, front, on the Cyclone roller coaster at the opening of Luna Park in Coney Island last week.
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, front, on the Cyclone roller coaster at the opening of Luna Park in Coney Island last week.Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

This has been a spring of reopenings around New York City.

Bars, restaurants, hotels, movie theaters and even amusement parks are coming back to life after the shutdown. Rather than just turn on the lights and open the doors, many owners have sought to celebrate with meaningful gestures.

When Coney Island reopened its amusement park this month, the first passengers to ride the Cyclone, the 90-year-plus wooden roller coaster there, were 100 essential workers from nearby Coney Island Hospital who had been selected in a raffle.

One of the riders was Dawn Lanzisera, who works in the psychiatric emergency room and grew up near the Brooklyn neighborhood. “It’s so great to be here and see life return,” she said.

As soon as the speeches had concluded and the gates had opened, the rickety roller coaster cars, filled with hospital employees, started their climb to the top, one that offered stunning views of the ocean and boardwalk.

As the coaster plunged 85 feet, the screams may have reflected the release of a pandemic year’s worth of tensions.

— Alyson Krueger

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