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Vaccinated Americans don't yet need 3rd dose to ward off delta variant, CDC says

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Pfizer is about to seek U.S. authorization for a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, saying Thursday that another shot within 12 months could dramatically boost immunity and maybe help ward off the latest worrisome coronavirus mutant.

But hours after Pfizer's announcement, U.S. health officials issued a statement saying fully vaccinated Americans don't need a booster yet.

U.S. health agencies "are engaged in a science-based, rigorous process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary," the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a joint statement. That work will include data from the drug companies, "but does not rely on those data exclusively," and any decision on booster shots would happen only when "the science demonstrates that they are needed," the agencies said.

Currently only about 48% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated — and some parts of the country have far lower immunization rates, places where the delta variant is surging. On Thursday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said that's leading to "two truths" — highly immunized swaths of America are getting back to normal while hospitalizations are rising in other places.

Research from multiple countries shows the Pfizer shot and other widely used COVID-19 vaccines offer strong protection against the highly contagious delta variant, which is spreading rapidly around the world and now accounts for most new U.S. infections.

Two doses of most vaccines are critical to develop high levels of virus-fighting antibodies against all versions of the coronavirus, not just the delta variant -- and most of the world still is desperate to get those initial protective doses as the pandemic continues to rage.

But antibodies naturally wane over time, so studies also are underway to tell if and when boosters might be needed.

Also Thursday, researchers from France's Pasteur Institute reported new evidence that full vaccination is critical.

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