SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN – It’s a question on many people’s minds these days:
Do I need a booster dose of a COVID vaccine?
The answer, like many aspects of this pandemic, is complicated. And in some ways, it depends on what we mean by “need.”
The three vaccines approved or authorized in the U.S. generally provide very good protection against severe disease and death from COVID. Yet some people, especially those who are immunocompromised, may not mount a strong response to the initial doses.
And although there is not much evidence of waning immunity among young, healthy individuals, some reports from Israel, the U.K. and the U.S. suggest protection may erode somewhat over time, especially among the elderly.
Breakthrough infections do happen even in healthy vaccinated people, though they are very unlikely to cause severe disease.
Officials in the U.S. and several other countries have now authorized booster shots for various subsets of their populations.
As of October 20, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna shot for certain people who previously got those vaccines:
- those aged 65 or older,
- those aged 18 to 64 who have underlying health conditions that put them at risk of severe COVID
- and people in the latter age group who are at high risk of occupational exposure, such as health care workers and teachers.
Earlier the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director recommended the Pfizer booster shot for all three groups—overruling the agency’s own advisory panel, which had not recommended people receive an extra dose based on their occupation.
On October 14 an FDA advisory panel voted to recommend authorizing boosters for the Moderna vaccine.
And on October 15 it voted to recommend a booster of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine for anyone aged 18 or older at least two months after the first dose …