This Is What Happens If You Get a COVID Booster Too Soon, Experts Warn
Taking another shot while fully vaccinated could have this serious consequence.
The Delta variant is creating a fresh set of problems in the fight against COVID-19. New infections in the U.S. have doubled in the past three weeks, with 47 states reporting an increase in cases and data showing that the highly contagious strain now accounts for 58 percent of infections nationwide, USA Today reports. The recent surges have also added fuel to the debate over whether people will require an additional vaccine shot to keep the variant at bay. But according to some experts, getting a COVID booster too soon could have one unintended consequence. Read on to see why you should hold off on your next shot.
During a press briefing on July 13, Andrew T. Pavia, MD, IDSA fellow and chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Utah School of Medicine, pointed out a potential issue for administering a COVID booster too quickly. He explained that similar to other types of vaccines, there might be "a rare problem whereas you get more and more doses, you actually have a muted immune response."
Another expert points out that vaccinating someone too often for the same virus is a possibility. In an interview with The Atlantic, John Wherry, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania, said that after so many doses, the immune system will stop learning how to produce antibodies against the materials that different vaccines expose it to. At that point, the cells experience a kind of "burnout" from information overload.
But the same may not be true for all types of inoculations. Pavia also clarified during the briefing that while this could end up being a problem for specific COVID vaccines, it likely wouldn't be the case for mRNA shots such as Moderna or Pfizer that rely on two shots.
Still, many experts have also expressed concerns that additional doses of vaccines could have other serious health consequences. During a press briefing on July 13, Jay Butler, deputy CDC director, cautioned that existing data shows that the second shot of a two-dose regimen was statistically when side effects were most likely to develop, warning that more data was needed to ensure a third booster wouldn't create a potentially dangerous situation. "We're keenly interested in knowing whether or not a third dose may be associated with any higher risk of adverse reactions, particularly some of those more severe—although very rare—side effects," he said.
Besides potential health ramifications, the debate over whether or not a booster shot is even needed yet is raging on. Advocates for the extra shot point out an Israeli study that found the Pfizer vaccine's efficacy fell to 64 percent from 94 percent against the Delta variant. But critics cite a larger study from the U.K. that found the two-shot regimen still held an 88 percent efficacy rate against the new strain.
Other top officials point out that while some wealthier countries may have the luxury of offering an extra dose to those who have already been fully vaccinated, it would cut the supply short in parts of the world that badly need them. "Currently, data shows us that vaccination offers long-lasting immunity against serious and deadly COVID-19," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said during a press briefing on July 12. "The priority now must be to vaccinate those who have received no doses and protection."