Recent data from Israel revealed that vaccinated people were getting COVID-19, which led some experts to speculate that vaccines lose their effectiveness over time. This, along with information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), led the Biden administration to recommend booster shots eight months after vaccination to ensure adequate protection against the virus.
According to USA Today, Israel is offering a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine after studies showed declining efficacy of the two-dose shots. France is encouraging transplant recipients, dialysis patients and other immunocompromised citizens to get their booster shot.
But experts told The New York Times that we may be jumping the gun by promoting COVID-19 boosters. “There’s a big difference between needing another shot every six months versus every five years,” said Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “So far, looking at the data we have, I’m not seeing much evidence that we’ve reached that point yet.”
In mid-August, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amended its recommendations to allow an additional dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for immunocompromised people, according to Yale Medicine. President Biden’s administration also urged that all Americans receive a third dose after September 20, pending approval by the FDA.
Dr. Albert Shaw, an infectious disease specialist at Yale Medicine cautions that we really don’t know how long immunity lasts with the current vaccines and says that there is “uncertainty about boosters.” Shaw suggests that the current vaccines work against the variants we are seeing, but that future shots should be tweaked to address more dangerous mutations of COVID-19.
The expert said that’s easy to do with mRNA vaccines. As far as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, data shows it’s also still effective against the Delta variant, but that a booster shot at six months increased the number of antibodies nine-fold.
Dr. Dowdy tells the Times that positivity tests among older people who were the first to get vaccinated do not seem to be increasing. Experts point out that even the Israeli study found that the vaccines continued to do their job — preventing serious illness at a stable rate.
The push for boosters from the vaccine makers obviously comes from the pocket. They stand to make hefty profits from more shots. According to the Times, the FDA and the CDC often err on the side of caution. By sending out more alarming news, the public may be intimidated into getting booster shots.
According to STAT, Anna Durbin, a vaccine expert at Johns Hopkins University, says the vaccines continue to be highly effective in doing what they were designed to do: prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
She says that the decision to boost the vaccine right now isn’t based on science.
“I think there’s this tidal wave building that’s based on anxiety,” she told STAT. “And I don’t think it’s based on scientific evidence that a booster is needed.”
Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and an adviser to the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, thinks boosters may eventually be needed, but adds that almost all evidence shows that protection against severe disease is still strong and could last for years.
“So, the notion that we are trying to get ahead of it by boosting after eight months is premature,” he said, according to STAT.
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