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Virginia vaccine coordinator shares when Virginians may need COVID-19 booster shots

Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 9:25 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - By now we know that two weeks after your last COVID-19 shot means you’re considered fully vaccinated. But at some point, there may be a need for another shot - a booster.

Dr. Danny Avula, who leads Virginia’s vaccine effort, had a conference call Friday afternoon with reporters and was asked about the booster shot. He said yes, we’ll most likely need them - he guessed, perhaps in 2022. But as for exactly when, and how they’ll be distributed, that will take some time to figure out.

The main priority right now is getting more and more Virginians immune through vaccinations.

“It’s just slower and it’s harder, and that’s going to be the case for the next 3-4 months,” Avula said.

But a question still looms for scientists and health officials: how long will that protection hold up?

“We don’t know if that’s going to last eight months, 12 months, or beyond,” he said.

While the immunity timetable is still uncertain, Avula says there are two key indicators that will tell us when it’s time for a booster shot. One is when there are scientific studies showing antibody counts drop in vaccinated people.

“I would guess in the next 3-6 months we’ll start to see studies that show, ‘Hey, people who have been vaccinated start to have waning immunity at nine months or at 12 months,” he said.

The other is when we start to see more “breakthrough cases” - positive coronavirus tests among fully vaccinated people.

How people will get that booster shot is still in the works, but Avula says there are early ideas - at least about how it won’t be done. Avula says because people will still have some protection from the virus, large mass vaccination sites may not be the way to go.

“It’s a very different context that will not require the same degree of emergency response, and I think we can more effectively rely on our existing pathways in primary care providers, health departments, and pharmacies,” he said.

As far as why we may need the booster shots, Avula says it’s mostly about antibodies and immunity running low. It’s much less about the variants, which he says the current shots are doing well to prevent.

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