To wait, or not to wait for the next COVID booster shot

As of this month, a new COVID-19 booster shot will be available that covers the most prevalent variants, including BA. 2.86 and the variant that accounts for the most cases right now in the United States, EG.5.

“We have several new strains that are spreading. They’re all grandchildren, if you will, sub variants of Omicron, which means that they are spreading rather freely,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at the Vanderbilt Medical Center in Tennessee.

Schaffner said the new strains are not producing more severe diseases. However, there has been an increase in the spread of COVID-19 and hospitalizations related to the disease in the last month.

With the newest booster just days away, Rebecca Levorson, medical director of Inova Children’s Pediatric Infectious Diseases, said some people who want an updated booster may want to wait until the newest version is out.

“If you’re otherwise healthy, and you can wait your 12 days, I would certainly recommend waiting for the newer version of the vaccine,” Levorson said.

Schaffner agrees that, at this point, it is worth waiting for the new shot. But in the meantime, he recommends older people, 60-years-old and up, and others at high risk for serious illness because of underlying condition, should take steps to protect themselves.

“We can do these personal things, putting on the mask, being careful about going indoors to large group activities at the present time,” he said.

Levorson also said, to slow the spread of the illness, you should stay away from others when sick.

While Schaffner encourages everyone to get the booster, Levorson said she recommends that healthy people talk to their doctor to see if the vaccine would give them the “biggest bang for the buck.”

“For someone who’s overall healthy, you may effectively get like two months or so of higher antibody levels and then those we know will wane over time,” Levorson said.

But, she said, while doctors await guidance on who should get the upcoming booster, the biggest concern continues to be those at high risk. She said, people in that category who get the illness should contact their doctor right away.

“We can give them treatment as soon as they are infected to try to reduce their risk of severe disease,” she said.

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Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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