Lehigh Valley Health Network joins Pfizer's booster study for COVID-19 vaccine

ALLENTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Is a booster shot - a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine - safe, effective and necessary? It's a question on many minds and one a local medical center aims to answer.

Lehigh Valley Health Network is part of Pfizer's latest clinical trial. Researchers there are enrolling volunteers who participated in Pfizer's first trial there. The new study aims to answer if, when and also who would benefit from a booster.

"This virus really seems to be finding, very efficiently, people who are unvaccinated, so what that tells us is the original vaccines are working quite well," said Dr. Joseph Yozviak.

Dr. Yozviak said so far the vaccines we have are holding up and the protection is lasting.

But that could change. He's leading the trial at Lehigh Valley Health Network to test a booster or 3rd dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Participants from the first trial who enrolled will be given the vaccine or a placebo and then monitored.

"We'll be looking to see if there are an increase in number or a decrease or the same number of COVID-19 cases in each group," he said.

They will also be comparing severity of illness and screening for potential safety concerns.

In the meantime, advisors to the CDC will meet on Thursday tackling whether to recommend an extra dose for people with compromised immunity.

While important, Dr. Yozviak said focus on a third dose should not over-shadow what is needed for everyone now - getting more unvaccinated people vaccinated.

"Whether its two doses with the Pfizer or Moderna or it's the one dose Johnson & Johnson, that's the best way to stay out of the hospital and stay alive," he said.

Reasons for not getting the vaccine range from misinformation to myths to simply putting it off. Unvaccinated are asked to keep an open mind and review the data.

"The vast, vast majority of people are doing extremely well after vaccination and it still remains the best way to stay healthy and avoid COVID-19," he said.

Dr. Yozviak also addressed whether the vaccines may have been rushed and possible long term effects. You can watch the full interview in the player below or on our family of streaming apps, such as Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.

If you have questions for doctors, you can do participate in a live Facebook chat at Noon on Thursday hosted by Lehigh Valley Health Network.

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Dr. Joseph Yovziak is an Infectious Disease Specialist With Lehigh Valley Health Network

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