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Omicron may require fourth vaccine dose sooner than expected, Pfizer says

Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla has said the timeline for a second booster shot may need to be moved up. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
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The new omicron variant could increase the likelihood that people will need a fourth coronavirus vaccine dose earlier than expected, executives at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said Wednesday. Boosters are likely to help control the variant, according to the company, which said early lab experiments suggest that the standard two-dose regimen still provides some protection against severe illness from the variant.

Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chief executive, had projected that a fourth dose might be needed 12 months after a third shot. But he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that the timeline might need to be moved up. One of the company’s top scientists recently said a fourth shot — possibly one targeting omicron — is likely to be necessary.

Here’s what to know

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Here's what to know:

Federal regulators authorized booster shots of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds, a step that officials said could help tame the emerging omicron version.
More than 200 million people in the United States have now been fully vaccinated, according to The Washington Post’s tracker — just over 60 percent of the population.
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Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant. Here’s some guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

Variants: Instead of a single new Greek letter variant, a group of immune-evading omicron spinoffs are popping up all over the world. Any dominant variant will likely knock out monoclonal antibodies, targeted drugs that can be used as a treatment or to protect immunocompromised people.

Tripledemic: Hospitals are overwhelmed by a combination of respiratory illnesses, staffing shortages and nursing home closures. And experts believe the problem will deteriorate further in coming months. Here’s how to tell the difference between RSV, the flu and covid-19.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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