People will likely need a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine within a year of getting fully vaccinated and may subsequently need annual shots to protect against the coronavirus, Pfizer's CEO Albert Bourla said Thursday.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech are in the process of studying how long the protective immunity induced by the vaccines will last. Their findings will guide whether additional booster shots will be necessary.
Bourla said it's "likely" that a booster will be needed within 12 months of the initial two-shot regimen. "It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus," Bourla told CNBC Thursday during an event with CVS Health.
Earlier this month, Pfizer and BioNTech said data from clinical trials suggest that their vaccine offers high levels of protection six months after the second dose, with no serious safety concerns. The vaccine was also found to be effective against several known coronavirus variants, including one that was first reported in the U.K. and another that was thought to have emerged in South Africa.
Moderna is similarly studying an upgraded version of its COVID-19 vaccine that is specifically designed to target the South African variant, which some experts worried may evade existing vaccines.
In an interview with CNBC on Wednesday, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said the company is working on a shot that would combine protection against COVID-19 and the seasonal flu. This will be especially important over the next year, he said, as new variants of the coronavirus emerge and circulate around the world.
"What we're trying to do at Moderna, actually, is to get a flu vaccine in the clinic this year and then combine a flu vaccine to a COVID vaccine so that you only have to get one boost at your local CVS store, at your GP every year, that will protect you to a variant of concern against COVID and a seasonal flu strain," Bancel said.
This story originally published on NBC News.