Studies Find No Rush for Next Booster Shot

Antibodies produced after third dose appear to do well against variants
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 21, 2022 6:55 PM CST
Studies Suggest Next Booster Won't Be Needed for Some Time
A woman gets her fourth dose of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 earlier this month in Santiago, Chile.   (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

(Newser) – It's reasonable to assume health officials will soon recommend a second booster shot of the coronavirus vaccine to maintain protection against COVID-19. Israel has made fourth shots available, per CNN. The UK plans to do so this spring for people over 75. In the US, the FDA said that it's studying the issue and that the recommendation could come by fall. But several new studies suggest there's no hurry, the New York Times reports. For most people, the research indicates, the next jab could be months or years away.

For those who aren't at high risk of illness, two or three vaccine doses should head off a serious case of COVID-19 for some time, the findings show. The omicron variant is concerning, and it can avoid antibodies present after two doses. But a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines causes the body to produce a much greater variety of antibodies that any variant of the coronavirus—even future strains—would have trouble evading, a study released last week shows. "If people are exposed to another variant like omicron, they now got some extra ammunition to fight it," a Seattle immunologist said.

In addition, at least four studies published by top journals this year indicate that other parts of the immune system remember and wipe out the coronavirus, possibly for years. T cells generated after doses of major vaccines also do well against omicron and other variants, per the Times, and researchers say they'd expect that to be true with future strains, as well. That was the case with the deadly 2003 SARS coronavirus outbreak, in which T cells lasted more than 17 years in people exposed to the virus. More doses may not always be needed, or even do much. "We're starting to see now diminishing returns on the number of additional doses," said John Wherry of the Institute for immunology at the University of Pennsylvania. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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