Top Virus Expert Warns Boosted People to Do This "As Soon as" They Can

This comes as experts raise the alarm about a potential COVID surge.

If you've felt like COVID's stronghold on the U.S. has loosened over the last few months, you're hardly alone. In fact, most Americans now say that their lives are looking more and more like they did pre-pandemic. According to a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the SCAN Foundation, 54 percent of adults feel their lives are somewhat the same as before and 12 percent feel that their lives are exactly the same today as they were before the pandemic hit. COVID cases are falling at the moment, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting a more than 5 percent decrease in new daily infections this week compared to last.

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But the coronavirus is far from eradicated. Many virus experts have warned about a potential surge later this year, as the fall and winter seasons have already proved to be the most dangerous times for COVID's spread. Thomas Campbell, MD, an internal medicine physician who ran clinical trials for COVID vaccines, told UCHealth in Aurora, Colorado, that it's "important to plan for another wave in the fall and winter because there's a good probability that it will happen," as COVID will likely continue to spread due to a variety of factors.

"Both vaccine-induced immunity and immunity from natural infection wane over time. We have a virus that's still here along with waning immunity. And human behavior changes in the fall," Campbell explained. "Kids will go back to school. The weather will be colder. The daylight hours will be shorter, so people will be indoors more and having more contact with other people. Then, we'll have Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's, and travel associated with the holidays … We have all the ingredients necessary to create a new wave."

The continued emergence of new Omicron subvariants is also likely to aid a future COVID surge, which is why vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer and Moderna have started to "create new, tailored versions of their booster shots that will better combat Omicron variants," according to UCHealth. On June 30, an advisory committee for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended approval for these new Omicron-specific booster vaccine formulas.

"The original vaccines and boosters did not specifically fight these Omicron variants because they hadn't developed yet," UCHealth further explained. "The vaccine makers have pledged to deliver the new doses by fall."

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But the likelihood of new booster shots has some people questioning when they should be getting their additional doses. Everyone over the age of 5 is eligible for a singular booster shot at least five months after their primary vaccine series, according to the CDC. A second booster is also available to adults who are 50 and older, as well as those 12 and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised, once it has been at least four months since they received their first boost.

The CDC reports that nearly half of those fully vaccinated have gotten their first booster shot so far, but vaccination rates for the second booster are much lower. This may be partly because some people are unsure if they should be waiting for this additional dose, whether to better time it with the expected fall COVID surge or to get the new Omicron-specific booster formula. If you're holding out for one of these reasons, virus experts have a clear warning: Don't wait to get the second booster.

"There is a high level of community transmission right now, so it's better to get it as soon as you are eligible to allow time to build up antibodies," Hannah Newman, MPH, the director of infection prevention at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told WebMD. According to Amesh Adalja, MD, an assistant professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, it takes "probably seven days or so until you reach the peak protection for the immune system to have reacted."

Campbell also advised against waiting for a second booster, urging boosted individuals to get it as soon as possible as new variants continue to spread and vaccine-based immunity wanes further. "With the Omicron variant, after the first booster dose, the protection starts to really drop off by about six months," he said.

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