Booster future? What UVA physicians are saying about a potential COVID-19 booster shot

COVID-19 vaccine shot
COVID-19 vaccine shot(WVIR)
Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 10:23 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Even with the rise in infections from the Delta variant of COVID-19 in some areas, University of Virginia’s doctors Taison Bell and Bill Petri say if you’re fully vaccinated, you’re well protected.

That’s proven by data from the Virginia Department of Health, which says that over 99 percent of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths over the past six months have been among unvaccinated -- or partially vaccinated -- Virginians.

But now, booster shot discussions are picking back up.

Pfizer is asking for authorization for a booster shot, but it has not been granted yet.

“With Delta, we’re still in very, very good shape,” Petri said. “But the margin for error has gotten smaller and that’s why there’s a lot of debate right now about when should a vaccine booster be given”

Petri says we may need a booster, and that a looming question is when it would be needed.

Bell predicts that it “would be around the fall or so.”

“I think the problem right now is that we don’t have enough data really that gives a strong recommendation, one way or the other,” Bell said.

If a booster is needed, it’ll likely first go into the arms of the immunocompromised.

“We have seen data showing that folks who have suppressed immune systems may not generate as a robust immune response and they may not make antibody levels that are sufficient in the first place,” Bell said.

But for most people, the vaccines they received are still really protective -- even against the Delta variant.

“We don’t have a problem today,” Petri said. “We might have a problem six months from now and so now is the time to be re-engineering the vaccine like Pfizer has done to make it better against the Delta.”

With the effectiveness of the vaccines well-documented, Bell says the job remains the same: it’s time to vaccinate as many eligible, unvaccinated, Virginians -- also, deliver shots to needy neighbors abroad.

“Starting a third dose campaign here when, globally, a lot of countries have not started vaccinating people at all, or have very low numbers, that’s complicated as well,” Bell said.

He also mentioned that while we have more data about the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines, the protection from the Johnson & Johnson is still “very, very good.”

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