With millions of people in the U.S. fully vaccinated—almost 124 million, according to May 17 data—many people are looking ahead, trying to anticipate when they'll have to sit down for another shot. While experts know the effectiveness of the vaccine is high two weeks after your vaccination process is over, they don't know much about how well the vaccine will protect you past six months since clinical trials haven't gone on for that long. Experts agree that a COVID booster shot will likely be necessary at some point, but they're not sure just yet when that will be. Recently, Ashish Jha, MD, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, gave his thoughts on when you'll have to get another jab and it's not something you'll have to worry about soon.
On the May 11 installation of the podcast COVID: What Comes Next, from Providence Journal and the USA Today Network, Jha addressed the hot topic of COVID booster shots. Currently, studies show that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines maintain substantial efficacy for at least six months. The vaccine companies will continue to research as time goes on to see how the vaccines hold up beyond that point, but Jha thinks we can wait much longer than that to expect our COVID booster shots.
Although Jha noted that he has "no idea if or when we will need a booster," he felt confident that we won't need one for at six months. "Vaccine-induced immunity is quite good," he explained. He said he expects immunity to last "at least a year but probably longer," but only time will tell.
Experts, including White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, have also predicted that we won't need boosters for at least six months, likely longer. In April, Fauci told Washington D.C.'s Fox 5 that we have "a ways to go" before we need to concern ourselves with needing booster shots to up immunity. "We know that the durability is at least six months, likely a year," said Fauci.
The pharmaceutical companies working on potential boosters generally agree with that timeline. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in April people will "likely" need a booster shot within a year of being fully vaccinated. "There will be likely a need for a third dose, somewhere between six and 12 months, and then from there, there will be an annual revaccination, but all of that needs to be confirmed," Bourla told CNBC. He noted that the vaccine's efficacy against new variants will play a significant role in deciding when to roll out booster shots.
Although you might not need a booster shot soon, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said the third shot will be ready in a matter of months. "We're working very hard to potentially have late summer, early fall, that boost for the variants authorized to be able to be used in the marketplace for boosting people," Bancel said during an International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations briefing in April.
The company also announced plans to bundle the COVID booster with another annual shot. "What we're trying to do at Moderna actually is try to get a flu vaccine in the clinic this year and then combine our flu vaccine to our COVID vaccine, so you only have to get one boost at your local CVS store," Bancel said. "That would protect you to the variant of concern against COVID and the seasonal flu strain."