view | Most people can wait until the fall to get a Covid booster

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Readers keep wondering about the perfect timing for the next dose of coronavirus. Here’s the bottom line: While some people have specific conditions that prompt them to get a shot now, most Americans can wait until the updated booster shot is released in late September to early October.

This is because the new booster is expected to provide better coverage against variants currently in circulation. While COVID-19 cases are on the rise now, they are likely to rise further during the winter months. Given the short duration of peak effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines, it makes sense to time the next dose to last into winter.

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

Given their ages, the three people in Suzanne’s family are unlikely to become severely ill with the coronavirus, and may be adequately protected by hybrid immunity from previous infection and vaccination. They don’t need to get a boost before this trip.

My answer is the same as for Mulia from Washington State, who inquires about her 19-year-old son as he prepares to start his sophomore year of college. He had the original two-dose series of coronavirus vaccines, but did not receive any boosters. He contracted the coronavirus early in his freshman year, got off to a bad start in college with missed classes and isolation, and although clinically undiagnosed, felt depressed for a time. I want him to get a booster before school starts, but I’m wondering if he should wait until the latest version is available later in the fall. He is healthy and athletic and does not have any pre-existing conditions.

Mulia’s son can wait for the updated booster to be released. This is also a good time for the college to review its testing and isolation guidelines, which may be more lenient than in 2022.

For some, it may be helpful to consider getting a current booster sooner. Ed is from DC, 73 years old, in good health, and will leave for Bulgaria at the end of September. “I’ll be with a small tour group of 14 other people on an 18-day tour of Thracian ruins and the like in different cities and towns. Should I get my ‘normal’ booster potion in mid-September just to be safe?

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

I think Ed and Candace can make either choice. If they received the current booster in early to mid-September, they will be eligible for the updated booster five months later, in February. This is not an unreasonable decision for people over the age of 65 who have a big trip or high exposure event before the new booster is released.

On the other hand, people whose high exposure events occur later in the year can delay their booster dose a bit more. “I got the bivalent vaccine in October 2022, and then got sick for the first time at the end of April this year,” wrote Glenna, from Arizona. “I’m nearly 70, I’m on a statin for high cholesterol, and I have a really good hypothyroidism. We’re going on a Panama Canal cruise in early January. Should I wait to get it three weeks before the cruise for the best coverage For the trip or to get it when it first becomes available?

I think Glenna can wait because she caught covid four months ago and is still very well protected as a result. Furthermore, if you get your booster in late September, the infection’s optimal efficacy period will be over by the time it cruises. Getting the booster updated in early to mid December would provide the best coverage of its flight. If she has plans for a vacation that includes a lot of exposure for Thanksgiving, she can bump up her boost level to two weeks ahead of time, and that should provide some protection during her cruise.

Some readers are thinking about the future and wondering about the next booster. “I am 74 years old and generally in good health,” writes Ann from Maryland. “My second coronavirus vaccination was in April 2023. I plan to get the updated coronavirus vaccine next October before the next event in November. This booster may be less effective by next spring. Do you anticipate that another round of coronavirus vaccination will be available in the spring of 2024 for those of us over 65 planning travel/family gatherings after that? I am worried that the annual dose will not be enough to protect me.

Federal health officials have not studied the frequency of boosters for people who are not immunocompromised. And in 2023, they authorized the use of a spring booster to increase protection for those 65 and older. They will likely do the same in 2024. It is clear that protection, especially against infection, is rapidly diminishing. Most people who qualify for a twice-yearly booster will not get it, but some will, and I think it’s reasonable to offer the option to those looking for optimal protection.

All of these guidelines could change if a new variant that is more elusive to immunity emerges and causes more severe disease. Until then, most people can wait for the new booster drug to be released, and those at high risk of severe disease should take extra precautions and plan to take antivirals if they contract coronavirus.

Do you have more questions? please send them I will be contacting them in the newsletter next week.

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