Do you need a second COVID booster shot?
Are there any disadvantages?
According to experts, there’s no known downside to getting another reminder, even if you don’t need it. The vaccines have a strong safety record and serious side effects are rare.
The risk of myocarditis — one of those rare side effects — in the over 50 age group “is really considered minimal,” said the FDA’s Marks. “The side effect profile that was examined in one million people who received additional doses in Israel appears to be very favorable in this age group.” That said, you should plan for some possible, albeit temporary, side effects after the shot. Fatigue, fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, and nausea are all common symptoms reported after COVID-19 shots and other vaccines.
But there also doesn’t seem to be any benefit to an extra boost for people who don’t need it – again, we’re talking about younger people who don’t have any health issues – especially when It’s about building the longest-lasting cellular immunity that helps protect the body against serious disease.
“Individuals will still get an increase in their antibody levels after a booster dose. But how critical that is is unclear,” says Moss. “It comes down to: What is really our goal with vaccinations? Is our goal simply to try to prevent all infections, which is an almost impossible goal for a vaccine, or is it to prevent serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths, which is a much more reasonable goal ? And I think we’ve probably achieved that in most individuals with three doses.
The FDA has a meeting on April 6 to discuss the future of boosters, including whether more will be needed for a larger portion of the population and how often. Health officials will also discuss what those vaccines might look like. We may have more options for boosters in the next few months to a year, Moss says, such as variant-specific vaccines or nasal vaccines that provide local immunity. Scientists are also working on developing a vaccine that could work against multiple coronaviruses.
It’s also possible, “particularly in otherwise healthy young adults, that they may not need an annual booster,” Moss says, though that depends on the course of the pandemic and any variant that may emerge. “Perhaps this annual reminder is more for the most vulnerable.”
What’s the takeaway?
The key message is to assess your risks and, if you have any questions, talk to your doctor.
“Again, the main determinants are age and then your underlying health conditions,” says Drews. “And the higher your personal risk of severe COVID, the sooner you want to move forward and get that second booster.”
And don’t forget the other tools that can help prevent serious illness: high-quality masks can help prevent an infection from happening in the first place, and if you do get COVID-19, a menu of treatments can help. prevent the disease from progressing.
“I think the other thing that’s important is if you haven’t been vaccinated or boosted, you should. Because I’m more concerned about the millions who still haven’t been vaccinated, or the millions over 65 who haven’t gotten their first boost yet. That, for me, should be a priority,” del Rio says.
Rachel Nania writes about health care and health policy for AARP. Previously, she was a reporter and editor for WTOP radio in Washington, DC. The recipient of a Gracie Award and an Edward R. Murrow Regional Award, she also participated in a Dementia Research Fellowship with the National Press Foundation.