When will we know if we need a COVID-19 booster shot?

Coronavirus Updates
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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Moderna is now recommending the fully vaccinated receive a COVID-19 booster shot by winter, to serve as extra protection. Pfizer has made similar remarks, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to signal the need for one. Local health experts weigh in on the conversation.

New data from the two companies show their shots maintain high efficacy six months after the second dose, and report trials with booster shots are producing promising immune responses.

Local doctors said while more data is needed to know if people will need a third shot, they told ABC4 News the first priority would most likely be given to people who had a less favorable response to the first two doses.

“Primarily immunocompromised people, immunosuppressant people,” said Dr. Sankar Swaminathan, MD, the chief of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Utah Health.

“Our older individuals, those in long-term care facilities, those who are over 65,” said Dr. Tamara Sheffield, Intermountain Healthcare’s medical director of community health and prevention.

Dr. Swaminathan explained to ABC4 News at what point a booster shot may be needed.

“If we get a variant that really escapes the vaccine and we get breakthrough hospitalizations and serious disease in the vaccinated, then we might benefit from a vaccine that’s targeted against the new variant,” he said.

The CDC continues to review any new data. The organization also reports if and when the science demonstrates booster doses are needed, they are prepared.

Rather than only focus on if a third shot will be necessary, Dr. Sheffield and Dr. Swaminathan said there’s still a need to get the first and second dose to people.

“Over 95% of those in our hospitals that have COVID and almost all of those dying from COVID, these are the unvaccinated individuals,” she said.

“Almost everybody in the hospital is unvaccinated, we’re not seeing a rise in hospitalizations of the vaccinated,” Dr. Swaminathan said.

As of Thursday, data collected by the Utah Department of Health shows 45% of Utah’s population are full vaccinated against COVID-19.

As the world moves forward in the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Sheffield and Dr. Swaminathan said data will continue to show the next steps.

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