Will You Need Another COVID Booster This Spring?

A gloved hand holding a COVID-19 ampule


Key Takeaways

  • You do not need another COVID-19 vaccine if you’ve already gotten a bivalent booster.
  • FDA officials are deciding whether they will authorize a second bivalent COVID booster dose for high-risk people.
  • Experts say that the bivalent boosters are still effective and there is no pressing need to create another reformulated booster.

More than six months have passed since updated COVID-19 vaccines with Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 spike proteins rolled out. Many people are wondering whether it’s nearly time to get another booster, or whether they’ll need to start getting yearly COVID boosters as with annual flu shots.

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, officials from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are said to be weighing whether to authorize a second dose of bivalent COVID boosters for high-risk people. But for the general population, another shot in the near future is unlikely.

Here’s what experts want you to know about spring COVID boosters.

Why You Can’t Get Another Bivalent Booster Yet

For the time being, if you’ve gotten a bivalent booster, you’re considered to be up-to-date with your vaccines.

“There is no additional need for a booster vaccine if one has already received the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine,” Gonzalo Bearman, MD, chief of infectious diseases for Virginia Commonwealth University Health, told Verywell.

According to David Dowdy, MD, a professor in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s department of epidemiology, the challenge with a broad recommendation for a second bivalent booster shot is the lack of data.

While there is strong evidence that the current vaccine series is effective against serious COVID illness, Dowdy said that “it’s not entirely clear how helpful another dose of the Omicron-tailored shot would be for high-risk individuals.”

Health officials are monitoring new and changing data on COVID vaccination to help them make recommendations, which are only based on the current situation—they’re not yet at a point where they want people to think about additional boosters as being part of a yearly routine like, say, flu shots are.

What Does the WHO Recommend?

Authorizing another vaccine booster dose for high-risk people would be in line with World Health Organization’s (WHO) revised roadmap for COVID-19 vaccination priority.

The WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) recently recommended an additional booster 6 or 12 months after the last dose for high-priority groups, which includes older adults, frontline healthcare workers, people with comorbid or immunocompromising health conditions, and pregnant people.

Do the Bivalent Boosters Still Work?

Recommending another booster dose would not mean that the bivalent boosters are not capable of protecting against COVID-19. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that countries use the bivalent vaccines for primary vaccination, not just for boosters.

The bivalent booster is still effective against the circulating variants of COVID, but a person’s immunity can wane over time. That’s why a seasonal or annual booster vaccination might end up being necessary at some point in the future. In fact, the Biden Administration reportedly has plans to roll out another reformulated COVID booster later this year.

“I do not see a compelling need to generate new formulations, especially with the burden of COVID-19 declining,” Dowdy said. “But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a role for those additional formulations in the future.”

For now, getting another bivalent booster dose is not authorized by the FDA. If it has been about six months since your last dose and you want to increase your protection from COVID, experts say you should focus on taking the usual precautions like wearing high-quality face masks, avoiding large indoor gatherings with poor ventilation, and washing your hands often and properly.

“Make sure that you don’t become a source of infection,” Dowdy said. “If you are having symptoms of COVID-19—or other respiratory illnesses—make sure that you are wearing a mask, and [stay] home when possible.”

What This Means For You

If you’ve already gotten a bivalent COVID booster, you might not need an additional booster this spring. An additional dose might be recommended for high-risk people if the FDA signs off.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

1 Source
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  1. World Health Organization. SAGE updates COVID-19 vaccination guidance.

By Carla Delgado
Carla M. Delgado is a health and culture writer based in the Philippines.