The 1st Covid vaccines were barely in the arms of nurses and doctors in the US before people started wondering what might come next. How would the vaccine keep them safe? Would it be effective in all variants? Would a booster shot be need in a year or two?
Those questions were front and center at this week’s CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) meeting. The group isn’t making recommendations around Covid vaccine boosters yet, but the discussion shows how leading health experts think through the issues. The vaccines authorized in the US work exceptionally well in protecting the majority of people from Covid. Protection seems to last a while, but it is not sure how long. The shots work on any Covid variants, even the fast-moving Delta variant.
But for some people vaccine doesn’t work. People who are immunocompromised often don’t produce antibodies after a regular dose of Covid vaccines. According to new research, a third booster dose of an mRNA Covid vaccine could give them more protection. The group ACIP thinks will be the 1st to get the booster because they have a clear indication that it would help them.
“There’s no data to support recommendations for booster doses at this time, except for the caveat in severely immunocompromised hosts who are not able to mount a strong response,” said Sharon Frey, an ACIP member and clinical director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Saint Louis University Medical School.
That data will come later. In the ongoing studies, the durability of Covid vaccines is being studied. CDC is keeping track to see if any variants evade the vaccines. The studies will check if people required 3rd dose of ongoing vaccines available or a new shot with an updated form of the vaccine that targets specific variants.
As per the ACIP’s discussion, only 45% of the US population is fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated people don’t need a booster but their 1st shot. Having more people vaccinate will prevent new variants and slow the virus. It will protect people who are immunocompromised. Figuring out boosters is essential. But getting unvaccinated people vaccinated is more critical.