Booster vaccines for COVID-19 are likely needed, but when?

NOW: Booster vaccines for COVID-19 are likely needed, but when?

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) - The first COVID-19 vaccine was administered in the U.S. mid-December of 2020. As we head later into 2021, experts say a booster shot may be needed for continued protection.

Doctors say all of the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers who have received an Emergency Use Authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are actively doing booster trials.

"It's highly likely that in a reasonable amount of time, we're going to wind up requiring boosters," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says while boosters are likely, they may not have to be designed to target new incoming variants.

“It is likely that you could just keep boosting against the wild type, and wind up getting a good enough response that you wouldn't have to worry about the variants," he says.

Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla expects it to be within a year’s time frame from when a person has received their second dose.

"Likely, there would be a need for a booster somewhere between 8 and 12 months," adds Bourla.

Area doctors say for now the bottom line is, we simply don’t know yet an exact time frame.

“The trials are still ongoing, so they’re still monitoring participants in the trials,” said Dr. Matt Anderson, Senior Medical Director of UW Health. “People who are most in the know it sounds like are thinking that we’re going to need a booster at some point whether it’s at 9 or 12 or however many months, but the 6-month data looks pretty good.”

Dr. Anderson says there are two parts to the booster trials, first scientists looks at blood samplings to measure immune response and antibody levels, and second— the study looks at frequency of infections in real-life situations.

“If the vaccinated people start to look more like the unvaccinated people as far as frequency of COVID-19 infections or the disparity between those starts to go down a little bit that would be another indicator,” Dr. Anderson adds.

Doctors say for now the safest route is to stick with the same brand if a booster is required, because there’s limited data on mixing vaccines. He says vaccinated people approaching the 9-month mark shouldn’t worry.

“You know I think we’re unlikely to see precipitous drops you know at that 9-month or 12-month mark, so it’s really about optimization,” says Dr. Anderson.

Dr. Anderson believes by the time boosters are needed, supply will be stable enough for people to get the same brand they initially got.

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