An advisory panel at The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently endorsed COVID-19 boosters for certain Americans. For now, the CDC is only recommending a third Pfizer vaccine for those 65 and older, nursing home residents, and adults aged 18 to 64 with underlying health conditions. In Ireland, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) have also recommended booster vaccines for these same groups.
Booster vaccines are only being recommended for the most vulnerable of people in countries across the world, but the lingering question remains of whether individuals that are not high-risk should be preparing for the possibility of a third vaccine dose. If a booster is needed, will we be getting it with our flu vaccines every year, or will we eventually be able to stop?
Non-vulnerable people may be waiting a while for their third dose, but if a third dose does become available, what would that look like? Would we be protected until the virus dies out, or would we need to continue getting annual booster vaccines?
COVID-19 is a virus, and like all viruses it is constantly evolving. We’ve seen this with the ever-growing number of variants (e.g. the Delta variant) that seem to pop up every day. The flu, like COVID-19, is constantly evolving (as viruses do). When you get a flu vaccine you may be receiving a completely different vaccine from any you may have had in the past.
Twice a year, the World Health Organization (WHO) meets to review results of data collected by labs across several countries on the flu. These labs conduct year-round surveillance on the flu virus, in order to decide what strain may become the most prevalent. That is how it is decided what should be included in the flu vaccines for that year, and with COVID-19 evolving rapidly, it is possible that this same decision-making process could be used if a booster is needed every year.
As such, I think we should be preparing for the possibility of receiving a vaccine every year, along with our flu vaccine.
COVID-19 may never go away in the way we want it to, and we may always have to live with the virus. But if a booster vaccine is needed every year to keep me and my family healthy, sign me up. I already get a flu vaccine every year to protect those around me, so what difference is adding another vaccine going to make?