Experts say that it’s unfair to encourage another dose when there’s still no data on how long immunity lasts after the complete vaccination schedule.
As the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic has progressed, priorities have changed around the world. Some nations have already approved a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, but what do the experts think?
“I’m appalled that they want to push a third vaccine when there still aren’t enough data to corroborate how long the complete vaccination schedule is effective for,” says virologist Susana López Charretón.
The scientist from the Institute of Biotechnology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) points out in an interview for Tec Review that, “administering a third vaccine ‘just in case’ is terrible if you consider the overall context of the country and the world.”
She adds that, “If we think on a national level, we still haven’t fully vaccinated even 25% of the population.” On a global level, that percentage is smaller.
“There isn’t enough vaccine production for everyone and giving a third vaccine or booster shot to people who are already fully vaccinated doesn’t seem fair to me.”
According to López Charretón, you can’t start giving a third dose when some people haven’t had a first.
“There are still countries without vaccines. They can’t pay for them. The demand has been so great that vaccine manufacturers can’t keep up. That’s why pushing for third vaccines is very selfish,” she explains.
An article published in Nature also notes that scientists say the need for vaccine boosters is not yet clear.
“Wasting resources on boosters for those who are already protected against severe disease does not really make too much sense,” says Laith Jamal Abu-Raddad, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar in Doha, quoted from Nature.
The idea of a “need” for booster shots has arisen in countries such as Israel, with a very high vaccination rate, where the majority of the population has been vaccinated.
This idea has also been promoted in the United States, although with a different view. “In some places, it’s being promoted for people at very high risk, who are immunosuppressed, and whose response to the vaccine has been very poor.”
In recent days, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that a small, vulnerable group might benefit from a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.
The United States authorized an additional dose of the Covid-19 vaccine for certain immunocompromised individuals, specifically for organ-transplant recipients or those who have been diagnosed with conditions that are considered to have a similar level of compromised immunity.
Meanwhile, most people in the poorest countries will have to wait another two years before getting vaccinated against Covid-19, researchers told Nature.
Researchers from the International Monetary Fund have projected that some 11 billion doses are needed to fully vaccinate 70% of the world’s population.
As of 4 July, 3.2 billion doses had been administered. At the current vaccination rate, this number would increase to around 6 billion doses by the end of the year.
According to scientist Rosa María del Ángel Núñez, a researcher from the Department of Infectomics and Molecular Pathogenesis at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV):
“At this time, what’s important in Mexico is being able to vaccinate the majority of the population. Right now, around 20% of the population has only had one dose and they urgently need to receive the second one.”
The researcher pointed out that, “countries without vaccines will have constant infections and could generate more dangerous variants.”
At the end of July, Mexican President Andrés López Obrador said that they’re not considering a third dose.
“We’re not ruling it out, but it’s not on the horizon. We haven’t yet discussed that. Those in charge of the whole vaccination plan are dedicated to meeting the goal of vaccinating all Mexicans over the age of 18 as soon as possible.”
Recently, Chinese laboratory CanSino Biologics reported that a second dose of its vaccine would be necessary as a booster for its single-dose vaccine, to strengthen protection against Covid-19.
According to López Obrador, “Pharmaceutical companies want to do business and would like to constantly be selling vaccines to everyone, but we have to prioritize. We need to know if they’re required or not. In other words, we shouldn’t be subjected, bound, or subordinated by what pharmaceutical companies tell us.”
Finally, virologist López Charretón recommended all Mexicans who have the opportunity to get vaccinated do so.
“Don’t get more vaccines than you’re supposed to, because as well as taking vaccines from others, you’re putting your health at risk by experimenting without any scientific grounds.”