You May Not Need a COVID Booster for This Many Years, Vaccine Expert Says
Your third dose might actually be a little further off than originally predicted.
Now that more than half of the adult American population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, many scientists and health experts are beginning to ask when a booster shot will be needed to keep people safe. As of now, the manufacturers of the three vaccines approved for use in the U.S. are working on their supplemental doses that some CEOs have said may be needed within a year. But as more scientists weigh in, it appears that the timeline of when you might expect a COVID booster could actually be years longer than originally thought.
While studies on vaccine efficacy over time are ongoing, experts such as Paul Offit, MD, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, believe it may be as long as three to five years before additional doses are needed. "I would predict that protection will last for a few years—protection as I define it, which is protection against severe to critical disease," he told Business Insider in a May interview.
Other top experts believe that while boosters might eventually be needed, not enough time has passed to tell how soon additional shots will be necessary. "Whether it's going to be a regular boost, or maybe just once every few years, we don't know," Anthony Fauci, MD, chief White House COVID adviser, said during the Conversation on Health Care podcast earlier this week. "We're doing the studies now to determine what the need would be, number one, and what the right boost approach is."
Many cite the changing nature of the virus as a variable that makes it difficult to know when the next doses will be needed. "It may be just a bit too early to tell with finality whether second doses, booster doses" will be necessary by autumn, Nirav Shah, MD, president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and Maine's top health official, told reporters this week. "Certainly, the better job we do now lowers the likelihood that variants could run loose," Shah said, according to The New York Times. "There is a direct link between what we do now and what we may need to do later."
But whenever boosters eventually roll out, some research has shown it may not be necessary for everyone in the population to receive one. Two recent studies found that people who received the COVID vaccine and were previously infected with the virus may see immunity that lasts for years.
And another expert points out that only certain people may need additional shots. "It may be a population-specific booster," Eyal Leshem, MD, an infectious-disease specialist at Sheba Medical Center, Israel's largest hospital, told Business Insider. "It may be discovered, for example, that persons over a certain age—say, over 65 or over 80—have a waning of immunity that's faster, and this population is going to get a booster recommendation."
Still, researchers say that the true timeline will ultimately come down to what's necessary to keep people safe from the constantly evolving threat. "We're going to have to be guided by the epidemiology and what happens with the virus—and, like we've had to do for the last year, we're going to have to continue to adapt based on what happens," Robert Atmar, MD, an infectious-disease expert from Baylor Vaccine Research Center, told Business Insider.