Skip to content
Home » Second COVID vaccine booster now or wait for the new vaccine?

Second COVID vaccine booster now or wait for the new vaccine?


Someone asked me the other day whether she should get the extremely safe second COVID-19 vaccine booster now or wait for the new Omicron-adapted vaccines that are coming in the fall from Pfizer and Moderna. I didn’t know the answer, so I thought I would investigate. Maybe it will help you or someone you know with that decision too.

The actual answer is a bit complicated, but there appear to be some good, solid recommendations coming from people who are experts in containing this pandemic. Let’s take a look.

By the way, this old dinosaur got his first Moderna booster in October 2021 and received his second booster (this time Pfizer) in April 2022. I do practice what I rant about here!

pexels-photo-5863393.jpeg
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels.com

Booster recommendations

Right now, the CDC has recommended the following for COVID-19 booster vaccines after receiving the Pfizer, Moderna, or JNJ vaccine primary doses:

  • For ages 17-49 years, one booster, preferably of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, 5 months after the final primary dose.
  • For adults 50 years and older, a second booster should be received at least 4 months after the first booster.
  • There are complicated recommendations for children and teens depending on which vaccine they have received, but teens mostly are recommended to get one booster.

Other countries and the World Health Organization have similar recommendations.

Because it’s a bit complicated as to who should get what booster at what age, the CDC has set up a booster calculator that gives you the correct recommendations. It clears up who should get what and when.

The BA.5 variant, and its subvariants, are now the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variants in the USA and many other countries, and it has drifted so much that protection from the first vaccine doses is now less effective, and those who received one COVID-19 vaccine booster last year have seen substantial reductions in immunity since those vaccinations.

a vaccine vial on white background
Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

Second COVID-19 vaccine booster

It’s probably going to be at least October before the new vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer are available> Both vaccines have shown excellent ability to neutralize Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 though to a lesser extent than they do for BA.1.

So during the next 8-12 weeks, people, especially those vulnerable to the disease and its effects, are at substantial risk of becoming infected given the high infectivity of the Omicron subvariants. Even though the current vaccines are less effective against the Omicron variant (and its subvariants), they do reduce the likelihood of ending up in the hospital. Or ending up dead.

In a paper published on 25 April 2022 in Nature Medicine, 563,465 participants ages 60 to 100 who had received their first booster more than four months previously found substantial reductions in hospitalizations and deaths among those who received a second booster compared with those who had received only their first booster.

The results were:

  • 270 of the 328,597 people who received a second booster were hospitalized during the 40-day study period.
  • 550 of the 234,868 who did not get a second booster were hospitalized.
  • 92 of those who received the second booster during the study period died due to COVID-19.
  • 232 died who had received just one dose.
  • The likelihood of death increased with age.

According to CDC’s COVID Data Tracker, in April 2022, people 50 years and older who received the primary vaccine series but only one booster dose had a 4-fold higher risk of death from COVID-19 compared with those who received both booster doses. The tracker shows that only 27.7% of those 50 years and older and 34.4% of those 65 and older have received their second booster.

White House COVID-19 Response Team coordinator Ashish Jha, MD offered this guidance during a briefing on 19 July 2020:

In terms of what to recommend to people right now, if you’re over 50 and if you’ve not gotten a shot in 2022, first of all, getting one now protects you for the rest of the summer into the fall. Second, it does not preclude you from being able to get a bivalent vaccine in the fall. So that’s why I think for me, it’s a very, very clear recommendation.

Because of the expected demand for the new bivalent vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna this fall, the Biden administration has agreed to purchase more than 100 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. They will probably also purchase more of the Moderna vaccine, though that is not clear at the moment.

Both vaccines should have the Omicron variant and subvariant targets, though there could be delays which could mean missing the Fall target. Remember, they haven’t submitted data to the FDA for these new vaccines, the FDA and the CDC have not reviewed the data, and manufacturing has not been scaled up. Although Pfizer and Moderna have an excellent record in getting their COVID-19 vaccines to the general population, I’ll remain optimistic.

What is the answer?

I think it’s pretty clear — get the second COVID-19 vaccine booster as soon as possible even though the new vaccines might become available in a couple of months. The risk of hospitalization and death is much higher in those without the second booster, and we don’t know if there will be a delay in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines this fall.

Don’t take this recommendation just because I wrote it. The evidence supports it. And public health experts support it.

Citations

Michael Simpson

Don’t miss each new article!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Liked it? Take a second to support Michael Simpson on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!