Omicron Booster: Do I Need One, and If So, When? : shots | Health Advice

Health officials ready for the fall are recommending a new round of booster shots.

Rogelio V. Solis/AP


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Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Health officials ready for the fall are recommending a new round of booster shots.

Rogelio V. Solis/AP

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending an updated COVID booster for people 12 years of age and older.

These newly authorized shots are improved versions of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines and are available in pharmacies, clinics and doctors’ offices nationwide.

The boosters target both the original strain of coronavirus and the two omicron subvariants that are currently causing the majority of infections. Vaccine manufacturers have scrambled to reintroduce vaccines because they have become less effective than newer variants.

“This virus has been mutating so rapidly over the past two years,” says Judith Guzman-Cottrill, an infectious disease specialist at Oregon Health & Science University. “I think we’re playing catch-up and eventually we’ve caught,” Guzmán-Cottril says.

Pfizer’s updated booster is available for people 12 years of age and older. Modern Booster is available for people 18 years of age and older.

“If you’re eligible, there’s no worse time to get your COVID-19 booster,” CDC Director Rochelle Valensky told NPR. “I strongly encourage you to get it,” she says.

But after talking to several infectious disease experts, we found that there is a whole lot of opinion on who needs a boost and when. So, if you’re navigating this decision, here are some things to consider:

Who needs a booster as soon as possible?

“I would recommend this booster shot for people who are immunized or who are 60 [old] and up,” says Monica Gandhian infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. Gandhi says people from these groups are most at risk.

According to CDC guidance, people are eligible if it has been at least two months since they received their last COVID shot, either a booster or an initial vaccine, but some vaccine experts say waiting at least four months. It would be better to do

“I’ll Get It,” Says The Doctor bob watcher, who is in his mid-60s and in good health. “I’m about eight months out from shot number four. And so my immunity has dropped significantly,” Wachter says. It plans to get an updated booster as soon as it becomes available as a defense against serious infections, given that COVID is still spreading widely with approx. 400 deaths per day,

“There’s no question that getting a booster increases the chances that you’ll have a benign case,” if you do become infected, he says.

Watcher also agrees with the CDC’s recommendation that young adults get a booster. Boosting can protect against prolonged COVID exposure and help protect the community by reducing mass transmission if another surge occurs, he says.

“There are good reasons to get it, even for people who have a low chance of a super serious infection,” Wachter says.

When does it make sense to wait?

If you have recently had a COVID infection, it makes sense to wait.

Guzmán-Cottril and her children had a mild infection in August, so she says she will wait until November to get a boost.

“Our natural antibody response will protect us from COVID for a few more months. So I think it makes sense to get an update booster about three months after our positive COVID test,” she says.

it conforms CDC Vaccine Advisors Recommendation – People who have recently had COVID-19 may consider delaying the booster shot by three months. That’s what the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says is his plan. Fauci tested positive in mid-June and said he would wait three months before getting his updated booster.

Guzman-Cottrell says both of her teens will also get a new booster “this winter to protect us from COVID so we can avoid sick days off work and school,” she says.

Can I time my shot for maximum protection over the holidays?

It will come as no surprise if another COVID surge strikes this coming winter. Because protection from a booster can only last for several months, some people say they plan to wait to get a new booster to get maximum protection if the risk of infection is high. “You can make a rational argument for waiting until case rates are high,” says Wachter.

If you’re trying to time it for periods of highest risk, he says, December and January are likely to have a ton more cases than September and October.

However, says Wachter, this strategy is like trying to time the stock market. It’s hard to predict when the increase will happen, so there’s risk in waiting.

“You’re basically acknowledging a period of vulnerability that you don’t need,” he says. “And as I weigh all that in, my thinking is that I wouldn’t.”

Another argument against waiting is that protection from a booster shot is not instantaneous. “It takes a few weeks for our immune system to recover,” Dr. Anirudh Hazra, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Chicago. He says it can be risky to wait until the boom is already underway.

Hazra explains that vaccines can activate our immune system in certain ways. Immune cells, known as B cells, help produce antibodies that fight viruses in the short term. Research shows that COVID vaccines increase antibodies for several months, but then they begin to fade. After that, B cells and another type of immune cell, known as T cells, which can destroy infected cells, stick around. build a deep immunity,

He says this deep immunity was triggered and primed by early vaccines, so people who have been vaccinated should have some protection against COVID, but the Omicron subvariants that are operating now are so different. “This [new] The booster will definitely provide you with high levels of antibodies, which are short-lived and short-lived. It may also provide more deep-seated immunity,” he says.

Will the new booster shots completely prevent COVID infection?

No. There’s a lot of excitement for updated boosters, but they’re no magic bullet

As SARS-CoV-2 has evolved, it has become more transmissible, which is why Delta and Omicron have sparked such a huge boom despite widespread vaccination in the US.

“The goal of this vaccine is to prevent serious disease,” says Paul Offit, Director of the Center for Vaccine Education at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. They argue that many people who have already received three doses of the vaccine remain well protected, so they do not see any clear benefit of giving new boosters to everyone 12 years of age and older.

according For CDC data, People who have had one or two boosters have a 0.024% chance of being hospitalized with COVID-19. For people under 50, it is even lower – 0.014%

Offit agrees that certain groups should receive new boosters including older adults, immunocompromised people and people with chronic conditions. at high risk of serious disease. But he questions the value of another booster for healthy, young people.

Offit says that in May he had a mild infection which lasted for a few days. He has decided not to get a new booster. “I think I’m safe from serious illness.”

The new boosters provide a few months’ protection against infection, he says, but there’s no clear evidence of benefit beyond that.

NPR’s Rob Stein and Jen Greenhall contributed to this report.

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