Should I get my fourth shot now or wait for an Omicron-specific booster?

On August 15, England became the first country to enable an enhanced vaccine designed to target the Omicron variant in addition to the original coronavirus. The new vaccine is a dual vaccine, which means it will fight two variants of the virus.

A similar booster is likely to arrive in the US in the fall. (The UK-approved vaccination, which aims to protect against the first strain of Omicron, has caused cases to surge this past winter, while the US is waiting for a vaccine that can specifically target it. on BA.5, the version of the virus currently prevails.) Biden administration plans to roll out these retooled vaccines in September, although it is unclear exactly when Pfizer and Moderna, the companies that make the vaccines, will make them available; when the Food and Drug Administration will allow them; and which populations should be cleared to get them first. The new boosters could be rolled out first to groups at high risk of severe outcomes from Covid, such as the elderly and immunocompromised, before being offered to others. .

With new booster injections underway, doctors and infectious disease experts say they are raising the question of whether people should get a fourth shot now or wait for a specific booster. Omicron.

The CDC recommends that people get a booster shot as soon as they are eligible. Currently, all adults 50 years of age and older, and those 12 years of age or older and immunocompromised, can get a fourth shot.

Experts agree that people who qualify for a booster shot should now get the shot. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, says the older you are, the more likely you are to need a fourth shot.

In general, if you haven’t been vaccinated or haven’t recovered from a Covid infection in the past six months, “a booster shot is a good idea,” says Shane Crotty, a virologist at La Jolla Institute of Immunology. know.

Despite the CDC’s recommendations, experts acknowledge that people who aren’t technically qualified to get the fourth shot are still getting the shot. Some have strategically timed their second booster to “refill” with antibodies, scheduling injections before a wedding or a trip abroad, Dr Chin-Hong said.

However, experts say, if you’re under 50 and don’t have an underlying health condition, and you’ve had a booster shot before, you can wait for your turn to get an Omicron-specific booster.

People with “hybrid immunity” – those who have had booster shots in the past and have recovered from an infection, said Dr Paul Sax, an infectious disease specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Covid – and a professor at Harvard Medical School. “Unless someone is immunocompromised or elderly,” he said, “it doesn’t make sense for them to run out and get another vaccine.”

Aubree Gordon, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan, says the general recommendation is that people wait five months between booster doses. While the Covid vaccine is safe and effective, consecutive booster shots are unlikely to provide much benefit.

“If you get a booster shot now and you get another booster on September 15th, don’t expect that second shot to do anything,” says Dr. Dr. Crotty said.

While the Omicron-specific shot is expected to provide better protection against the variant currently circulating in the United States, it will not guarantee protection against infection.

Dr Crotty said: “The missiles against Omicron will not be a magic shield. But experts agree that any Covid vaccine you get — an existing booster or an Omicron booster in the fall — is intended to prevent severe illness. To date, all Covid vaccines have been extremely effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths.

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