As Americans who received their bivalent COVID-19 booster shots come up on six months since their injection, what are the chances waning immunity will leave people vulnerable without another dose?
So far, agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration have only proposed an annual booster plan, according to Yahoo News. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said waning vaccine effectiveness “isn’t yet known,” the news website added.
Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, spoke with Yahoo News about how getting another booster “is probably the most common question I get asked.”
“In the past, for the monovalent boosters, when you look at some of the data, the protection against hospitalization starts to fall off after around five months,” Hotez continued. In case the bivalent boosters are similar, “we are approaching that time, and that’s why I think it’s important for the CDC or FDA or both to issue a statement, so we know where we stand at this point,” Hotez said.
The bivalent booster shots target older strains of the virus as well as the newer omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants. Future vaccines and boosters were recommended by the CDC to all be bivalent, MassLive previously reported in January. The FDA’s expert advisory committee agreed that combating COVID-19 with an annual shot is incomparable with yearly flu shots due to COVID-19 surges and new variants.
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“There would have been some waning protective immunity, certainly against mild and perhaps moderate disease,” Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health professor Dr. William Moss said to Yahoo News. “There’s no right answer. It’s also going to depend on the level of community transmission, but I would say that would be a reasonable consideration.”
For anyone older or immunocompromised concerned about when to receive another booster, University of California, San Francisco professor of medicine Dr. Monica Gandhi told Yahoo News that studies purport that the initial doses of the vaccines are still doing a good job at protecting against severe COVID-19 infection.
“I would say that the original doses of the vaccines you received seem to be working very well, and I would not worry about needing another dose before the fall, based on the level of evidence that we have,” Gandhi added.
Despite concerns and assurances, only 53.6 million, or 16%, of Americans have received a booster shot at all, according to CDC data. In Massachusetts, less than a third of Berkshire County’s 100,000 residents are boosted and the state has campaigned to encourage people to get the shot by offering a $75 gift card, WAMC reported.
“…The bivalent booster is really what’s going to protect individuals moving forward,” said the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Estevan Garcia to WAMC. “And we’re anticipating that this will become an annual kind of event, just like the flu shot.”