As more of the nation becomes vaccinated against COVID-19, there's been increasing interest in how and when we'll receive booster shots. But perhaps as important as how and when is the question of who. Just like the initial vaccine rollout, which has successfully reached over 150 million Americans thus far, the booster shot will require an organized system to reach the most vulnerable individuals first. Read on to find out who will be first in line for the booster and when you might expect to get one yourself.
Older adults with and those with certain underlying conditions will likely be first in line.
During a May 4 earnings call, Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer's chief scientific officer, shared that the company will most likely distribute the booster to those most susceptible to COVID complications, hospitalization, and death. Just like the first round of vaccinations, this will include older adults and individuals with certain chronic diseases.
"We cannot, of course, predict what CDC and similar agencies will do," Dolsten said, acknowledging that the distribution plan will in part be determined by the U.S. government. However, he said, "you would likely start with those that are most susceptible, older adults, those with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular, obesity, COPD, asthma, many that are immune-impaired. And of course, that constitutes a very large population."
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But ultimately, everyone will need one.
While the booster rollout will likely prioritize high-risk populations, Dolsten stressed that everyone will eventually need a booster "if we are to really maintain control of the virus."
"It will be very reasonable to assume the importance of also vaccinating younger groups," he explained. "Although severe COVID is less common in younger groups, some patients may suffer severely from such infection, and they are at risk also of acquiring Long COVID syndrome, which can cause significant impairment of participation in functional life for young individuals as well as old," he added.
You'll need a booster regardless of type, and can expect it within a year.
Regardless of whether you received the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson&Johnson COVID vaccine, you'll most likely be offered a booster at some point within the next six months to a year.
Moderna is currently in clinical trials to determine the efficacy of its booster candidate, and the company has announced that it hopes to have booster shots ready by the end of 2021. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said on a May 4 earnings (via The New York Times) call that "a likely scenario" is "a third dose somewhere between six and 12 months, and from there it would be an annual re-vaccination." Even the Johnson&Johnson jab, known as the "one-and-done" COVID vaccine option, will likely need to be re-administered annually, the Times reports.
Boosters will be key in the fight against new variants.
Though all three available vaccines confer extraordinary protection against COVID-19, certain new variants may be more likely to evade a person's vaccine-enabled immune response. For this reason, the boosters will not only be designed to up your overall antibody levels, but also to specifically target some of the more dangerous variants currently circulating.
Moderna has thus far seen promising results from its booster candidate. The company announced preliminary data from ongoing clinical trials on its booster which suggest that it is effective in increasing immunity and targeting certain mutations of the virus. CNBC reports that this variant-specific booster "increased neutralizing antibody responses against the original virus as well as B.1.351 and P.1." These variants were originally found in South Africa and Brazil, respectively, but have been spreading in the U.S.
"We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that our booster strategy should be protective against these newly detected variants,"Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement.