COVID-19 Booster Shots Will be Needed by Fall

Frank Diamond

Frank Diamond has been with Infection Control Today since November 2019. He has more than 30 years of experience working for magazines, newspapers, and television news.

Infection preventionists—many of whom are trying to tamp down vaccine hesitancy among some fellow health care professionals—should prepare to help with an autumn campaign.

Almost as soon as medical experts began talking about COVID-19 vaccinations, the term “booster shot” slid into the conversation. And, as influenza vaccination efforts over the decades in hospitals and other health care facilities have shown, there’s a good chance that infection preventionists (IPs) will play a part in COVID-19 vaccination efforts, even if it’s to address the problem of vaccine hesitancy among health care workers.

Last August, Rebecca Leach, RN,BSN, MPH, CIC, and a member of Infection Control Today®’s Editorial Advisory Board (EAB), reported that confounding the work of IPs providing education about COVID-19 vaccines “is the concept that we may need to have annual boosters or vaccine modifications if the predominant viral strains mutate.” For their part, IPs “will likely need to be a resource for education about … any booster or follow-up needed based on how the vaccine is designed.”

Well, IPs will probably be needed to provide that education in the fall, according to Anthony Fauci, MD, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He tells Axios that “I think we will almost certainly require a booster sometime within a year or so after getting the primary [shot] because the durability of protection against coronaviruses is generally not lifelong.”

Albert Bourla, DVM, PhD, the CEO of Pfizer, the maker of one of the COVID-19 vaccines, tells Axios that “the data that I see coming, they are supporting the notion that likely there will be a need for a booster somewhere between eight and 12 months,” meaning that the booster shot for some of those vaccinated first will be needed as early as September or October.

Stéphane Bancel, MBA, the CEO of Moderna, the maker of another COVID-19 vaccine, concurred that booster shots will be needed and preparations for administering them should begin now. “I think as a country we should rather be two months too early, than two months too late with outbreaks in several places,” Bancel wrote in an email to Axios. “People at highest risks (elderly, health care workers) were vaccinated in December/January. So I would do [a] September start for those at highest risk.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that as of Wednesday, about 47.9% of the US population has gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while about 37.8% of the public is fully vaccinated.

Roughly 47.9% of the US population has received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data as of early Wednesday. About 37.8% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Leach warned last August that vaccines themselves won’t beat back COVID-19. “We must not dilute the response to relying on a vaccine to ‘cure’ the pandemic. Disease prevention requires a broad range of interventions, including vaccines, in order to be effective and truly address the risks of transmission.”

The CDC’s recent pronouncements about just who should wear a mask and under what circumstances, seems to ignore this advice, argues Kevin Kavanagh, MD, another member of ICT®’s EAB. Kavanagh has said that too much attention has been given to how many people COVID-19 kills, and not enough to how many people might live but become incapacitated in some way. “Those of you who advocate reopening at the peril of those who are vaccine hesitant—letting nature decide the fate of the ill-informed—need to remember that survival is not the same as recovery. Many will develop debilitating long COVID, enacting a societal legacy of disregard for humanity, which will impair our health care system for decades to come.”