LEHIGH VALLEY, Pa. | Lehigh Valley Health Network announced it is involved in COVID-19 research, as part of Pfizer’s clinical trial to determine the need for a COVID vaccine booster shot.

"And we'll be able to answer that question in time of 'is there a need for a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine, is it necessary and helpful and is it safe?" said  Dr. Joseph Yozviak, DO, Lehigh Valley Health Network's Principal Investigator in Pfizer's latest COVID-19 vaccine trial.

Yozviak says at this point, they can't answer the question of how long the vaccine lasts.

"We have a lot of information to suggest a very long time, but we truly don't know yet," he explains.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health are all involved in research to see if a booster is necessary.

LVHN participated in clinical trials for the Pfizer vaccine and is now participating in studying the need for a possible Pfizer vaccine booster. Participation is limited to those who received the COVID-19 vaccine in the first trial.

While LVHN participates in the study to determine if a third shot is necessary, infectious disease experts at the network continue to emphasize the importance of getting shots to unvaccinated people.

“Each person who is fully vaccinated is one less person who might get sick and end up in the hospital,” said Alex Benjamin, MD, LVHN Chief Infection Control and Prevention Officer. “The emergence of the more contagious delta variant in the U.S., including here in Pennsylvania, is also a concern and another reason to get immunized.”

The number of COVID-19 patients in LVHN hospitals is slowly beginning to rise because of complacency among unvaccinated people, medical officials said. The hospitalized COVID patients in LVHN hospitals are primarily unvaccinated.

The CDC reports that 99 percent of COVID-19 cases in the country right now, are reported in unvaccinated people. And vaccinated adult cases are low.

"I think right now, we are not seeing widespread vaccine failures, even related to the Delta variant; however, it's important to stay ahead of the curve in research and have answers ready to go and have these questions really figured out, so that if we get to a point where we are starting to see vaccine breakthroughs in the future, we'll know that getting a booster will provide the additional surge in immune response needed to keep us all safe," Yozviak says.

In the region served by LVHN, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reports several counties are in the top 10 when measured on the percentage of residents with at least one dose. They include Lehigh, Lackawanna, Northampton and Montgomery counties, according to LVHN.

Lehigh County ranked third with 67.1% of all residents having at least one shot, data indicates. Philadelphia is not included in the state figures, experts note.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is easy and supplies are plentiful, health experts say. To find a vaccine walk-in clinic location or to set up an appointment at a vaccine clinic, people can go online, access your MyLVHN account, or call the LVHN Vaccine Hotline at 833-584-6283 (833-LVHN-CVD).

LVHN will present a COVID-19 Facebook Live session at noon, July 22, 2021, featuring a panel of LVHN doctors. All are invited to tune in and submit questions.

“Right now, 99 percent of COVID cases are occurring in those that are unvaccinated,” said Yozviak. “The most important thing you can do right now is make sure you are fully vaccinated with both doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”

The LVHN / Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine trial will last one year. 

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