Some should get boosted now and wait longer for revamped COVID-19 vaccine: expert

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccination booster shot for a customer at the Exhibition Pharmacy on July 11, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia.
A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccination booster shot for a customer at the Exhibition Pharmacy on July 11, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo credit Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images
By , KCBS Radio

The FDA is moving away from plans to let more younger adults get a second COVID-19 booster shot this summer and are instead speeding up the availability of next-generation boosters for this fall.

While those who are eligible should go ahead and get boosted whenever they're able, some are skeptical of the FDA's new focus.

"I have a little bit of a bone to pick with the feds on the decision," said Dr. Robert Wachter, Chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSF, on KCBS Radio's "Ask an Expert" show last week.

For the older members of the population who are eligible for another booster dose and decide to go out and get one now, that would mean they would have to wait until the fall or winter to get the "rejiggered booster," he said.

"But not doing it that way means that for younger people they will be vulnerable during a period of really high prevalence," said Wachter. "There's a lot of COVID-19 around right now."

"I would have preferred they give people the choice," he said. "Get the booster now and then you have to wait a bit, probably five months after that to get the better booster; or go ahead and wait to get the better booster, but you’re going to be vulnerable for two, three, four months."

For young people -- those under the age of 50 who don’t have any underlying health conditions -- the chances of landing in the hospital are slim, but not entirely zero.

The chance of getting COVID-19 in general is more and more likely in the coming months as masking mandates have loosened and people seem to be past the stage of worrying about the virus as much as they used to, Wachter explained.

Although those who are closer in age to 40 than 70 are less at risk for complications due to COVID-19, there is still some risk. "Also." said Wachter, "if they get COVID-19, it's crummy, they feel sick, and they have to be out of work for a while."

Weighing all of that together, it might be more beneficial for some people to go ahead and get boosted now, particularly if their last booster was up to a year or so ago.

As of right now, officials have said that a new and improved version of the vaccine will be available by mid-September.

"I hope they're right," Wachter said. "I think it's great to expedite it, it probably will be better than the existing booster."

In the beginning though, if it comes out mid-to-late September, there’s most likely going to be a prioritization over who gets the first doses.

"For the 45-year-old, they're probably not going to be eligible for it in terms of where their spot in line is until October, November," he said.

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Ultimately, the government’s decision is not unreasonable, he said, but it would probably have been better to leave the decision up to individuals and their healthcare providers.

"For you, you have a lot of exposure, you're in an area (San Fransisco, CA) that's got a lot of COVID-19, think you’re better getting a shot today," said Wachter. "And then it means you're not going to get this new booster, not in September, but maybe you’re going to get it in December."

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