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Q&A: Pfizer's potential 3rd dose, likelihood of annual vaccinations & 'breakthrough' cases

Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center weighs in on Friday’s vaccine headlines.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Pfizer’s CEO announced a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine may be needed.

There is also a lot of discussion happening right now about whether we may need to get vaccinated annually for COVID-19. Also, Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced more cases of what’s being called, “breakthrough” infections of COVID that happen when a person is fully vaccinated and gets sick with the virus.

10TV turned to a member of our panel of medical experts to share more information about what we know about these three topics.

Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser is the chief quality and patient safety officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Question: Pfizer's CEO has said a third dose may be required. What do we know about this?

Dr. Gonsenhauser: “Since the beginning of the testing and studying of really all of the vaccines, we’ve been looking at how long the immunity that it gives individuals will last. And the way that they look at that is really by measuring the levels of those antibodies that your body produces in response to the vaccine. At first, we heard it was good through six months, then we heard that it was good for up to about a year. And now we’re hearing that at about a year is when they are expecting that immunity to start waning and that’s why we would need a booster, a third dose at that point.”

Q: Will we need to get vaccinated every year?

Dr. Gonsenhauser: “If [COVID-19 spread] continues in our communities then we likely would need a vaccine every year if immunity doesn’t last longer than that.”

At his news briefing Thursday, DeWine said there have been 154 reports in Ohio of fully vaccinated people later getting COVID-19. Of those, 14 hospitalizations, zero deaths. Now – although this number is relatively small – it is double from what we knew the day before: 76 reports, and seven hospitalizations.

Q: When talking about "breakthrough" cases of vaccinated people getting sick with COVID-19, what does this information tell us?

Dr. Gonsenhauser: “That number is going to continue to grow….You know we know that the vaccines are not perfect.  We know they are anywhere from 70 to 95% effective leaving a pretty sizeable risk that individuals can still be exposed and can still come down with COVID even after they’ve been vaccinated. Now, the positive here that even if you get COVID after being vaccinated, one of the really big impacts of having had your vaccine is that even if that happens it’s very unlikely to be a very serious illness, unlikely to leave you needing the hospital or the ICU so there’s still reason to get the vaccine even if you point to that number and say ‘well I may get it anyways’ what you end up getting with COVID after being vaccinated is very different from what you experience if you have not been vaccinated.”