Is a Fourth COVID-19 Vaccine Dose Needed? – Experts Are Still Divided!

Is a Fourth COVID-19 Vaccine Dose Needed? – Experts Are Still Divided!

Research continues to prove that the available COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are still highly efficient in preventing severe infections, hospitalizations and death.

However, there is no doubt that, as the virus evolves, their effectiveness is also waning, especially in the case of the omicron variant.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that those fully vaccinated and boosted were 86.1 percent protected against the delta variant and only 49.4 percent protected against omicron.

Another study from the United Kingdom learned that the effectiveness of the third Pfizer dose dropped from 67 percent to 46 percent in only a few months from getting it.

While the numbers may sound concerning, they are actually not that different from the ones of other vaccines.

For instance, this year, the influenza vaccine was only about 36 percent effective, which was lower than the usual 40 to 60 percent.

Regardless, just last week, Moderna asked the Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization for a second booster shot for all adults.

This came a few days after Pfizer and BioNTech requested the same authorization for people over the age of 65.

At this time, however, medical experts and scientists are still widely divided on whether periodical boosting is a good solution or not.

Infectious disease and critical care medicine doctor, Dr. Amesh Adalja, for instance, says that, while she is not convinced everyone should get another dose, she acknowledges it could be beneficial to some.

“In older or high-risk individuals fourth doses appear beneficial at preventing severe disease. I do not think younger age groups — apart from those with high risk conditions — benefit much from even 3rd doses.”

There is enough evidence that suggests a second booster is bound to increase antibodies against omicron but there are still many unknowns, including just how long these antibodies will last.

Professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, Paul Hunter, shared that “It is just too early to say whether the protection’s more durable after the 4th dose than after the 3rd dose, but personally I doubt it would be — though I cannot be certain. To my mind, the implications of the study are that we should not rush to broaden the roll-out of the current plans for a 4th dose in the UK. Though I’d still progress with what’s currently planned for the most vulnerable groups.”

Katherine Baldwin

Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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