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COVID-19 booster shot is a possibility, doctors say

All three vaccine manufacturers are working to develop a COVID-19 booster shot.
Published: May. 14, 2021 at 3:14 PM CDT|Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 6:45 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - All three vaccine manufacturers are working to develop a COVID-19 booster shot.

In April, Pfizer’s CEO says people will likely need a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine 12 months after getting fully vaccinated.

Last month, Moderna’s CEO announced it hopes to have a booster shot ready by this fall.

Johnson and Johnson has also shared its working on creating a booster shot.

While the companies are preparing to rollout a third dose, local health experts are keeping an eye on the current research.

UW Health’s Dr. Jeff Pothof says the length of immunity looks good for now.

“If we started to see immunity fading rapidly at that six-month mark, we’d be hearing about it,” said Pothof. “It looks like at least for six-months and maybe out to a year for immunity is pretty good with these vaccines.”

Researchers are testing the antibodies of the people who participated in the initial vaccine trials to study what is the exact length of immunity for each vaccine.

“I do think there will be a day though that we do learn that immunity is starting to fade from these COVID vaccines,” said Pothof. “Then, that would give us some idea of what that interval might be for boosters.”

Dr. Dan Shirley, Unity Point Health-Meriter’s Medical Director of Infection Prevention, says variants could be another reason why we need a booster shot.

“We may know the variants that we’re dealing with or we may not,” said Shirely. “There may be new ones that we need to protect against that the original shot doesn’t.”

Shirley says mass vaccinations are one way to prevent new variants from forming.

“The faster we can get more people vaccinated, the less likely variants will become a big problem for which we need more shots,” said Shirley.

Health experts say the data will ultimately determine whether or not we need a booster shot, not the vaccine manufacturing companies.

“There’s always a balance between companies making vaccines and the research around them,” said Shirley. “Obviously it’s in their best interest to sell vaccines so we want to see the data on whether a booster is needed before we do that widespread.”

Before any potential booster shot is rolled out, it will go through the same trial process. Researchers will be examining the way the immune system reacts to the additional dose and what side effects may occur.

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