WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — COVID cases are surging again across the country.
Pennsylvania is among 46 states seeing a 10 percent or more increase in the number of recent infections.
It has some, including a drug manufacturer, thinking a vaccine booster shot may be necessary. That drug manufacturer is Pfizer, which provided the first COVID vaccine in the U.S. last December after receiving FDA emergency use authorization. Now, clinical trials on a Pfizer booster shot are about, to begin with, a local health system participating.
After enrolling 75 people last year in a clinical trial of the Pfizer COVID vaccine, Lehigh Valley Health Network is calling on the same pool of participants for another clinical trial to provide an important answer.
“So what this trial is going to look at is the simple question of are boosters necessary? Are they helpful or are they safe?” LVHN Principal Investigator for the Pfizer COVID Vaccine Clinical Trial, Dr. Joseph Yozviak, explained.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met Thursday to tackle the topic, including if a booster dose could benefit immunocompromised individuals. The Delta variant-fueled surge has caused the number of COVID cases nationally to triple in the last two weeks with roughly 37,000 new cases per day and rising.
“It’s clear from even some of the small trials that have occurred to date that some immunosuppressed individuals don’t develop antibodies and may not be quite as protected as others,” Dr. Yozviak said. “Listen, this is just a virus. It doesn’t care who we are, it doesn’t care who we believe. It doesn’t really care about anything about us. It just wants to spread and multiply.”
One thing is certain according to Dr. Yozviak, not enough people are taking this virus and its variants seriously enough to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated.
“As we start talking about booster doses, third doses, whatever we’re going to call them, what remains clear right now with what we’re all experiencing, both in states that are really hot with lots of cases at the moment and states that are not quite as hot but are starting to see increases, like Pennsylvania, is that the first vaccine series is by far the most effective way to avoid COVID-19 infection and certainly severe disease, hospitalization and death,” Dr. Yozviak said.
To that point, Philadelphia reports a small yet alarming increase in hospitalizations of unvaccinated children infected with covid. The city now recommends masks indoors and in public places regardless of vaccination status.
Meanwhile, LVHN hopes to begin enrolling participants next week for the clinical trial of the Pfizer vaccine booster.