With an incoming COVID surge, health officials are urging booster shots. do you need one

With another COVID-19 variant said to be faster and more stealthy than the previous ones, health officials say the calculus has changed, pushing even harder for booster shots to bolster the country’s armaments.

There is a renewed impetus for everyone over 5 to go out and get a first booster shot if they haven’t already. That’s the majority of Americans, because despite evidence of significant improvements in protection from hospitalization and death from the third shot, only 48% of Americans have received a third shot, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials are also urging a second booster shot, about four months after the first booster shot, for people who received their first booster shot but are considered high-risk, including those aged 50 and older and those who are immunocompromised.

“For people aged 50 and older, my message is simple. If you didn’t get a shot in 2022 — if you didn’t get a shot this year, please go for another shot,” said the White House, COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha during a press conference on Tuesday.

In Wake County, health leaders said more people are signing up to get their booster shots. In the past 30 days they have administered a total of 2,300 vaccinations, including 1,200 booster vaccinations.

One woman told ABC11 she had her second booster shot.

“I plan on traveling in the next few months so just to be on the safe side and if I travel and for heaven’s sake something happens while you’re traveling on the plane and where you’re traveling you never know who has it’s mostly the vaccinations that you never know,” said Shazeia Husain.

Health officials nationwide are encouraging people to get a second booster shot.

“If you haven’t had a vaccination this year, get one now. It could save your life,” said Dr. Ashish Jha.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control are also considering expanding this eligibility to all adults in the next few weeks, Jha said.

But the newfound urgency to offer second boosters to younger populations was met with confusion, particularly after federal officials previously indicated shots for non-high-risk individuals would not be necessary until the fall.

And even for those over 50, if you were getting a shot now, which would make you hesitate, in the fall, previous guidance on the CDC website said you should wait until the fall to get a second booster shot to get one. However, the emergence of the Omicron subvariant BA.5 seems to have changed this calculus.

Why is BA.5 changing the urgency of booster shots?

BA.5, which now accounts for an estimated 65% of new COVID-19 cases in the US, according to CDC data, became dominant earlier this month. It brought with it a surge of cases and hospitalizations, likely to be followed by fatalities.

It appears to be the most immune-avoidable variant the world has yet seen in terms of its ability to bypass seizure protection with COVID and the vaccines.

That means people who have already had COVID-19 are still at risk of becoming infected again.

And that drop in protection, coupled with a new variant better able to bypass the vaccine, poses a renewed threat.

“Incidence of BA.5 infection is increasing in the US, and those who have not been vaccinated for several months probably have decreased immunity,” C. Buddy Creech, director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program and associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases , ABC News said.

So who should get one?

Even if you’ve already had COVID-19 and plan to get a booster shot this fall, when variant-specific vaccines are expected to be available, experts speaking to ABC News largely agreed that eligible people should still make sure they’re awake to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots.

“If I hadn’t already gotten booster number two, I would have gotten it today,” said Dr. University of California San Francisco School of Medicine chair Bob Wachter told ABC News.

“You can have a painless, no-cost, and essentially risk-free intervention that reduces the likelihood of mortality, hospitalization, and, at least for a while, infection at a time when the virus is absolutely prevalent,” Wachter said. “That seems like a pretty easy call to me.”

Wachter said the risk of having another booster shot is lower than most procedures he performs daily in his hospital job and has one major benefit.

“The Booster is about as safe as anything we do. So my threshold for giving it when I think there might be some benefit is pretty low,” he said.

What if you recently had COVID?

Although the CDC recommends waiting about three months after getting the COVID-19 shot to get vaccinated, experts monitoring BA.5 said people should consider getting vaccinated a month or two after recovery.

“I’ve shortened my schedule. If you got infected a month or more ago and are now eligible for a booster, I would go ahead and get it,” Wachter said.

Because BA.5 may be better at escaping earlier infection compared to earlier variants, people who have recently contracted COVID should not think of it as being as protective as it once was.

“For anyone who was infected a month ago, an educated guess would be that it wasn’t BA.5, and therefore your immunity isn’t good for as long as it used to be,” Wachter said.

dr Anna Durbin, director of the Center for Immunization Research at Johns Hopkins University, said she would also wait a month or maybe two months for people at lower risk.

“You want your immune system to cool down a bit before you give another vaccine because once it’s cooled down, you get the most effect from that vaccine,” she told ABC News.

“This recent infection will give you an immune response that will keep you out of the hospital. It’s a better boost than the vaccine because it’s more aligned with what’s currently in circulation,” Durbin added.

dr David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, agreed that the need for a booster shot soon after infection was not urgent, given the added value of a booster shot that was soon to be “relatively small”.

What about the boosters coming this fall?

Although the US is expecting a new booster campaign this fall with updated variant-specific vaccines, in light of BA.5, several experts advised getting a booster now and then again in a few months when the new vaccines arrive.

“There’s this theoretical risk of overdoing it, but we’ve been in it for two years now, we’ve got people who’ve gotten two, three, even four shots — and I think it’s still a theoretical risk,” he told ABC News. “I don’t think there’s strong evidence that’s true.”

Durbin said she thinks people getting a refresher now would also have enough space between shots so another refresher this fall or winter would still have a strong impact.

“Because it’s July now, there’s enough window between this booster and the Omicron-specific booster that you should get a really good use of it in the fall,” she said.

If health authorities recommend a booster shot for younger people, should they get one?

When the FDA and CDC decide to open up eligibility for second booster shots to younger people, experts agreed that in certain cases it would be worth increasing protection.

“I would say the benefit certainly outweighs the risk,” Durbin said.

However, it will not rule out the possibility of getting COVID, and people should not expect it because the virus has evolved so rapidly since the original vaccines were developed.

“We have to be really careful about our messaging and taking into account people’s expectations, otherwise they’re not going to want to get booster shots in the fall, which are more specific to Omicron and are far better at preventing infection than the current vaccine,” Durbin said.

However, other experts have been more conservative in their recommendations for young people.

“While the benefits of vaccination certainly outweigh the risks, I’m not sure there’s any more urgency now than before to get younger people another booster shot,” Dowdy said.

“If anything, hospitalizations in the BA.5 era are increasingly being performed by people over 70, so the focus on people under 50 doesn’t really follow what we’re seeing in the data.”

And especially for young people who have recently contracted COVID, it makes sense for Wachter to wait until autumn.

“I would say for a really low risk person, a healthy young person with three shots and now COVID, then I would be on the fence and probably wait until the fall,” Wachter said.

Creech added that while some younger Americans may be hesitant about getting the refresher now and in the fall, most people will understand the ongoing threat of COVID-19 and the need to keep up protection.

“I think people are realizing that a new COVID variant always seems to be lurking around the corner and vaccines are the best prevention we have,” Creech said.

Copyright © 2022 ABC News Internet Ventures.

https://abc13.com/booster-shot-covid-coronavirus-vaccine/12053749/ With an incoming COVID surge, health officials are urging booster shots. do you need one

Dais Johnston

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