ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The push for COVID-19 booster shots is intensifying as COVID-19 has now claimed the lives of 1 in every 500 Americans.
An FDA advisory panel is meeting Friday to debate if there’s enough proof that a booster dose of Pfizer’s vaccine is safe and effective for the general public. This comes a week before President Biden said the additional shots would roll out for the general public.
There are still many questions surrounding the booster shots, so News 8 spoke with Dr. Ann Falsey, a Professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, to learn more.
Where do we stand right now with the COVID-19 booster shots?
“There’s a lot of ideas being put forward, and I do know that the ACIP is meeting, I think tomorrow, and will provide some better guidance,” Dr. Falsey said. “There is evidence in the literature that over time the vaccine efficacy does wain a bit for infection, although everybody seems to be well protected for severe disease, and that there’s also evidence that giving a third injection does increase antibody levels very nicely.”
The CDC has said the general public can get the vaccine 8 months after their second dose of the vaccine. After those 8 months, are people still protected?
“The current vaccines, even if you’re 9 to 10 months out, are still providing very good protection against severe disease. But no vaccine is ever going to be perfect. And so while the Delta, in particular, is really circulating rather widely, I still encourage people to use masks and sensible social distancing,” Dr. Falsey said.
“What we don’t want is people feeling panicky, that something magically happens that eight months, and they’re suddenly not protected at all, it’s not the case,” she added.
Is the 8 month recommendation for everyone?
Dr. Falsey said this could depend on the vaccine you got previously.
“It’s looking like maybe Moderna has a little bit more of a durable immunity. So Pfizer, they might say 8 to 10 months. Moderna they might say a year-and-a-half. The studies are really ongoing, where they track antibody levels and breakthrough infections, and try to get a sense of you know, how much you actually need.”
Is there a plan in place for rolling these vaccines out?
Dr. Falsey said URMC is in the planning process for these booster vaccines.
“I would suspect it might roll out in the way it was similarly wrote… the initial vaccines were rolled out that we would consider taking those at highest risk first. So people over age 65, and individuals with some significant underlying medical conditions,” she said.
Will we be getting the COVID-19 vaccines for a while?
“I think people have two choices. They can get vaccinated or they can get infected… and it may take a year or two, but that’s what’s going to gonna happen,” Falsey said.
Then, eventually, when everybody has been infected or been vaccinated, Dr. Falsey expects the virus to settle down into one of the usual respiratory illnesses.
“That’s not to say that they can’t be serious. I mean, we know that 40,000 people die of influenza a year. Similarly, you know, 10 to 15,000, people die of RSV, but it’s really a different clinical picture. It’s not hospitals filling up with relatively younger, healthier people with just widespread viral pneumonia,” she said.
Moderna has asked the FDA to approve its booster shot as well. Researchers are still working on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.