Given the nation’s diminished immunity and current BA.5 surge, more people are wondering whether they should get a booster (or second booster) now, or if they should wait until the fall when a new shot will likely be available. Here’s what to know.
“If you get a booster now, it does reduce your risk of getting infected [with BA.5],” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, during the briefing. “It does not drive it to zero, but it reduces that risk. And the data are very clear that if you are over 50, that extra booster dramatically lowers the risk of getting into the hospital, going to the ICU, or dying. There are very few things we do in medicine that have the kind of benefit we see from that extra shot.”
Who should get a booster?
Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend one booster shot for everyone ages 5 and older who are five months out from their last COVID-19 vaccine dose, and second booster doses for people ages 50 and older at least four months after their first booster. (Additional boosters are recommended for people with weakened immune systems).
Should people wait for the Omicron booster in the fall?
On June 30, the FDA decided that the next COVID-19 booster needs to target the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 specifically, because such a booster would likely increase people’s protection from getting infected with Omicron, and hopefully extend that protection to longer than a few months.
“The threat to you [from BA.5] is now,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the White House’s chief COVID-19 medical officer, in a briefing on July 12. “If you are not vaccinated to the fullest—namely, not gotten boosters according to the recommendations—you are putting yourself at increased risk.”
Getting boosted now “does not preclude you from also getting an [Omicron-specific] booster in the fall,” he added. “If the risk is now, address the current risk.”
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