Don't Wait to Get Your Booster for This Reason, Experts Warn
If you're eligible, this isn't a good reason to put off another COVID vaccine dose.
Health officials debated the need for boosters for months before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the green light for extra doses from Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson. As of Nov. 1, more than 18 million people have already gotten their COVID booster, but many people who are eligible may still be waiting. There are legitimate reasons to delay, including making sure you talk to your doctor first, and deciding if you should get another dose of your initial vaccine or opt for the mix-and-match approach. But if you're waiting to get your booster for one specific reason, experts say you shouldn't put it off any longer.
The Delta variant wreaked havoc on the U.S. over the summer, but that doesn't mean you should be waiting for a booster shot that targets Delta specifically. None of the three boosters available now are Delta-specific, but experts say they are still strong enough to protect you against the variant. "For the current variants, we haven't seen a need for a new variant vaccine. A boost seems to broaden your immune response enough," Rachel Presti, MD, director of the infectious disease clinical research unit at Washington University School of Medicine, told Business Insider.
John Wherry, PhD, an immunologist and pharmacology expert with the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, also told the news outlet that Delta doesn't need an entirely new vaccine, as the current COVID vaccines and their boosters still protect against it. "Right now, Delta's superpower is not necessarily evading vaccine-induced immunity," Wherry told Business Insider. "Its superpower is it spreads faster."
But despite increased spreading power, Delta cases are falling now, according to the CDC. The agency's latest data shows that new COVID cases have dropped by more than 7 percent over the last week, as of Oct. 29. "We've, at least for the moment, dodged a bullet," Wherry confirmed.
Some experts have expressed concern about a new Delta mutation in the U.S., currently dubbed Delta Plus. But CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, has said that the agency has not seen a rise in Delta Plus cases nationwide, nor evidence that it will impact the effectiveness of vaccine, although the CDC is monitoring it.
In the meantime, virus experts caution against waiting for any variant-specific boosters, as that is unlikely to become a reality. "If we were to update the vaccine every time a new variant arose, that would be a never-ending race," Ramon Lorenzo, PhD, an infectious disease expert at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, told Business Insider. "Imagine when we saw the Alpha variant that we had changed the vaccine to fight that. And now we see it's all Delta, so that would've been a futile effort."
Many experts have also warned eligible recipients against waiting for a booster at all, regardless of their reasoning. Jeremy Levin, MD, former chairman of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization and founder of Ovid Therapeutics, previously told Best Life that people should get their booster shot as soon as they're eligible. "Waiting increases the probability that the immunity gained by the original vaccination will diminish," Levin said.
Furthermore, getting a booster before the colder winter weather rolls in might be especially important for those at higher risk of severe COVID, like older adults and people with underlying medical conditions, Jeanne Marrazzo, MD, the director of the division of infectious disease at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, recently told The Washington Post.
"Winter is coming," she said. "We really want everybody to think about it like topping off your antibody levels, like topping off the tank before winter comes."