Massachusetts residents who are eligible can now access a second COVID-19 booster shot, but should they? Top Boston doctors explain that for some, it could be a timing game.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended that certain immunocompromised individuals and everyone over age 50 get an additional booster dose. That followed authorization by the Food and Drug Administration for a second booster dose for these groups four months after their first booster of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
Top Boston doctors shared what they're telling patients who ask whether they should get a second booster Tuesday during NBC10 Boston's weekly "COVID Q&A" series.
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Should I get a second booster?
"The question comes from people who run the gamut as far as their age, their individual circumstances," Brigham and Women's Hospital's Chief of Infectious Disease Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes said. "I would say, you know, boosting is no guarantee about not getting infected."
There are Israeli studies that show a fourth dose for people over the age of 60 does seem to protect against severe disease, hospitalization and death, according to Dr. Shira Doron, a hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center. But in Massachusetts, a second booster dose is now available to anyone over the age 50, in addition to those with certain medical conditions.
"Within that age group of 50 and up, there's a wide variety of levels of underlying comorbidities and you may be somebody who would benefit from the fourth dose," Doron said.
But there are a lot of people ages 50 and older with no comorbidities, Doron noted, who probably have a small risk of severe disease anyway. There's not a lot of risk for that population in getting the booster, but they may not get as much of a benefit from it right now.
"There are two potential downsides," Doron explained. "One is you might take it now, not be eligible for another one for however many months and cases may be higher later in two months when it's starting wain."
Another potential downside, Doron continued, would be if someone got the second booster and then missed out on a variant-specific vaccine or some other development in vaccine technology.
"I don't know. I'm 50. I haven't taken the fourth dose yet. I was first online for every other dose," Doron said. "I am going overseas in the summer so I might wait for that because I will, you know for a brief period of time, I will actually be protected against infection when the antibodies are at their highest and maybe I want to have that defense so I don't test positive on the way back and end up stuck there."
"If you're thinking of traveling internationally, and you want to be absolutely certain that you're not going to get ill, well then it may makes some sense to get boosted," Kuritzkes said.
For people who are due for a medical procedure, it may be best to time out a second booster dose prior to in order to prevent infection, but Kuritzkes warned that there are no guarantees.
"If you're concerned then you should protect yourself and take yourself out of circulation until the procedure rather than relying on the booster," Kuritzkes said.