Comment | Most people can wait until the fall to get their next Covid booster

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Readers keep asking about the best timing of the next coronavirus booster. Here’s the bottom line: While some people have specific circumstances that make them want to take the shot now, most Americans can wait until the updated booster rolls out in late September or early October.

Because the new booster is expected to provide better coverage against variants currently in circulation. As Covid-19 cases are currently on the rise, they are likely to increase further in the winter months. Given the short period of maximum effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines, your next shot may last until winter.

Susan from Maryland writes that her family (two 50-year-olds and a 17-year-old) are going on a vacation soon. “Should we get a covid booster before we leave?” she asks. “We’ve all been fully vaccinated before, but none of us have had Covid since last fall.”

Given their ages, three members of Susan’s family are unlikely to have become seriously ill with Covid, and they may have sufficient protection due to hybrid immunity from previous infections and vaccinations. They do not need to receive a booster prior to this trip.

My answer is the same for Mollia from Washington state, who is inquiring about her 19-year-old son, who is preparing to start his sophomore year of college. He had the original two-dose series of coronavirus vaccines, but did not receive any boosters. “He got Covid at the beginning of his freshman year, and with missed classes, isolation, and no medical diagnosis, he’s been depressed for a while. I want him to get a booster before school starts, but I’m wondering if he should wait until the new version is available in the fall. .He is healthy and athletic and has no pre-existing conditions.

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Molya’s son can wait until the updated booster is released. Now is a better time than 2022 to check on college testing and quarantine guidelines.

For some, getting a current booster early is worth it. Ed from DC, a healthy 73 year old, is going to Bulgaria at the end of September. “I will be with a small tour group of 14 for an 18-day tour of Thracian ruins and various towns and cities. Should I get the ‘regular’ booster by mid-September to play it safe?”

Candace from Virginia has a similar question. She and her husband are in their mid-70s and will be traveling to Portugal in the last two weeks of September. “Should we go ahead and take the bivalent vaccine that’s readily available now and wait until winter to get a new vaccine?” she asks.

I think both Ed and Candace can choose. If they received their current booster in early to mid-September, they will be eligible for a renewed booster five months later, in February. This is not an unreasonable decision for people over 65 who had a long journey or high exposure before the new booster was released.

On the other hand, people with high exposure events later in the year may delay their booster a bit. “Got a dual vaccine in October 2022 and then covid for the first time at the end of April this year,” wrote Glenna from Arizona. “I’m approaching 70, take a statin for high cholesterol and have well-managed hypothyroidism. In early January we take a Panama Canal cruise. To get the best coverage for the trip, should I wait to get it three weeks before the trip or get it when it’s first available?”

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Glenna had covid four months ago and is still well protected so I think she can wait. Also, if she gets a booster in late September, the infection’s optimal effectiveness period will be over by the time of her trip. Getting the upgraded booster in early to mid December will provide better coverage for his trip. If she has holiday plans that involve more exposure for Thanksgiving, she can move the booster a couple of weeks before, and that should provide some protection during her trip.

Some readers are thinking ahead and asking about the next booster. “I’m 74 and in generally good health,” writes Ann from Maryland. “My second bivalent covid vaccine was in April 2023. I would like to get the updated covid vaccine this October before the event in November. That booster may be less effective next spring. Do you expect to get another round of covid vaccine in spring 2024 for over 65s planning travel/family gatherings? I’m worried that one shot a year won’t be enough to protect me.

Federal health officials have not weighed in on the frequency of boosters for people who are not immunocompromised. In 2023, they allowed Spring Booster to “top-up” coverage for people age 65 and older. They may do the same in 2024. It is clear that protection against infection, in particular, wanes quickly. Most people who qualify for a bi-annual booster won’t get it, but some will, and I think it’s fair to offer the option to those looking for optimal protection.

All of these guidelines may change if a new variant emerges that is more immune evasive and causes more severe disease. Until then, most people can wait until the new booster is released, and those vulnerable to serious illnesses should take extra precautions and plan to take antiviral drugs if they contract Covid.

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