UW Health: Guidance on COVID-19 vaccine boosters is a ways away

MADISON, Wis. — It may still be a while until medical experts make recommendations about getting a booster for COVID-19 vaccines, according to experts at UW Health.

Ongoing studies throughout the U.S. show that protection from the vaccines lasts at least six months. Because the vaccines and disease are both new, experts haven’t yet found clear evidence that booster shots are needed.

To date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not recommended boosters for any COVID-19 vaccine, which means there’s no timeline for when that recommendation might be made.

“There is still so much to learn – how long immunity persists after vaccines, what kinds of reactions people might have with additional doses, and do the vaccines need to be updated for new strains of SARS-CoV2 – that it’s just too soon to know whether we will all need to have booster shots like we do for the flu,” Dr. Jim Conway, medical director of UW Health’s Immunization Program and professor of pediatrics and infectious disease specialist at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, said.

While there’s no guidance on whether or not boosters would be useful in the future, Dr. Conway said there are some scenarios where it could make sense like for people who have immune-weakening diseases or other conditions. Boosters could also be used if they’re needed as a response to emerging COVID-19 variants.

Dr. Conway said the current priority should still be getting vaccines for those still unvaccinated.

“Once more countries around the world, and more communities in the United States, have been vaccinated with the available supply, it may be conceivable for high-risk populations, like people 65 years old and older, organ transplant recipients and perhaps healthcare workers to receive booster shots eventually,” he said.