What this health expert wants you to know about COVID-19 booster shots

Aug 5, 2021

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The delta variant, first discovered in India, is quickly becoming the world’s dominant strain and has been traced to a worrying surge in positive cases around the globe. In recent days, vaccination and mask mandates have been strengthened in places like New York and Los Angeles County.

The highly transmissible delta variant has people wondering: “Will I need a COVID-19 booster shot?”

But health professionals say while more data is needed to determine whether a booster shot might be needed, the COVID-19 vaccines are effective against preventing serious illness or death.

To find out more about whether a COVID-19 booster shot might be needed in the future, TPG spoke with Dr. Jenny Yu, the senior manager of medical integrity at Healthline Media (which is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures), through email.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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There’s been discussion about a possible COVID-19 booster shot. What is a booster shot, and what other vaccines use boosters?

Boosters are either the same or smaller dosage of the original vaccines to re-stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies. Chickenpox, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) are other vaccine examples that have boosters as well.

Pfizer said its COVID-19 vaccine becomes somewhat less effective over time and suggested that a booster shot may be needed in the future. Do scientists and infectious disease experts agree?

Yes, current studies are underway to understand the longevity of the initial vaccines.

Even without a booster shot, how effective are the coronavirus vaccines against serious illness and death?

The mRNA technology vaccines are highly effective against the more transmissible delta variant in terms of preventing serious illness and death. U.K. data for Pfizer is 96% and Canadian data for Moderna is 96%.

Would a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot protect against the highly transmissible delta variant?

That still needs to be determined. Most who have had the 2-shot series are not going to require hospitalization or have severe disease, logically, a booster shot would help with the longevity of the immunity.

Will people be able to get a booster shot that’s different from the original vaccine they received?

[That is] unknown as of now, and would require further studies and research.

Featured photo by ArtistGNDphotography/Getty Images

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