AM Analysts have been monitoring an increase in coverage on the issue surrounding COVID-19 booster shots, whether they are necessary and if they will need to be taken. There are a number of questions that are yet to be answered before anyone can decisively say so including: What threshold of immunity is too low to protect someone? At what rate does the body begin to ‘lose’ its immunity? Can people switch brands of vaccines, or are they stuck with what they received in 2021?
John Beigel, an associate director for clinical research in Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases stated, “As we know, covid is not going to go away anytime soon, and we know that the antibodies decrease over time so that a boost will be needed at some juncture. I can’t predict when.”
Beigel hopes to see the beginnings of more conclusive results from studies within the next few months. The study hinges on people who ended up contracting COVID-19 despite receiving their vaccinations during clinical trials. The goal is to find a ‘correlate of protection,’ where scientists can determine what would be a minimum amount of immunity needed to protect against the virus.
Pfizer’s chief executive officer Albert Bourla told Axios that booster shots might be needed as early as the fall. The statement came with some pushback from professors and health professionals, saying that scientists will determine when the booster shots may be necessary, not businesses. An analysis of news articles with comment sections conducted by AM found one dominant theme of criticism: booster shots are part of a corporate agenda from drug manufacturers. If this trend develops and gains more traction, it could pose a further threat to the achievements made in building vaccine confidence and increasing uptake.
Professor of Immunology at Duke University School of Medicine, Barton Haynes, described the situation we are currently in as “data-poor,” when asked about booster shots. What scientists fear is discovering a large number of ‘breakthrough infections,’ or cases of COVID-19 among those who were already vaccinated. With that said, scientists are still trying to understand why people who receive the vaccine have widely varying degrees of protection.
Last week, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee, “I don’t anticipate that the durability of the vaccine protection is going to be infinite — it’s just not. So I imagine we will need, at some time, a booster. What we’re figuring out right now is what that interval is going to be.”
If booster vaccines are required later in the year, and perhaps again in 2022 and beyond, States and local authorities will once again be faced with the challenge of building confidence in the vaccines, making the vaccination process as convenient as possible, and persuading residents that any complacency might lead to future outbreaks and the spread of variants. Authorities would be wise to conduct contingency planning now in order to obtain vital data that can be used to test messaging approaches and tactics ahead of any booster vaccination campaign.
AM TRACE is currently working nationwide with multiple states and public health agencies on testing, contact tracing, and vaccination programs. Counties, states, or K-12 partners that are interested in joining AM TRACE for COVID-19 mitigation support should contact Dr. Christopher K Orlea at firstname.lastname@example.org.