You may be wondering whether to get the second Covid-19 booster now or hold on a second, so to speak, and wait until Fall. That may be because messaging about the booster part deux hasn’t exactly been super duper clear. A March 29 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) press release quoted its Director, Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, as saying: “Boosters are safe, and people over the age of 50 can now get an additional booster 4 months after their prior dose to increase their protection further.” But “can” is not always the same as “should.” For example, you probably can put five hot dogs in your mouth all at once. Plus, there has been talk of new Covid-19 vaccines, such as those more specific to the Omicron variants, becoming available sometime in the Summer. So the question is what should you do about a second booster?
Of course, the first thing that you should do is determine whether you are actually 50 years and older since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized in late March second booster doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna Covid-19 vaccines for that specific age range. That means if you are currently 49 years and 364 days old or younger then you don’t have to worry about a second booster, at least not for another day. There is one set of exceptions as the FDA did authorize the second booster for those who are younger (specifically at least 12 years or older to get the Pfizer Covid-19 booster and 18 years and older to get the Moderna one) that have significantly weaker immune systems.
If you aren’t sure whether you are 50 years or older, check your past Facebook or Instagram photos and count how many candles were on your last birthday cake. Alternatively, see how often you use the words “groovy”, “rolodex”, and “necking.” If you routinely say things like “I accidentally knocked over my groovy rolodex while necking,” then you may be over 50.
In all cases, this second booster shouldn’t come until at least four months have elapsed since your first booster dose. This may allow your immune system to be more ready to fully react to the second booster. If you don’t fall within the two major groups outlined by the FDA, don’t even think about getting a second Covid-19 booster because the word “unauthorized” and anything else shouldn’t in general go together.
So, again “can” and “authorized to get” are not the same as should. Nevertheless, there are some compelling reasons to go for Booster Act 2 should you fall within one of the authorized groups. As I’ve indicated for Forbes recently, this pandemic ain’t over. The SARS-CoV-2 continues to spread. In fact, recent weeks have seen upticks in Covid-19 cases throughout the U.S., raising concerns that yet another Covid-19 surge could potentially occur. Yet, many people have already gone from “we’re in this together” to “I don’t want to be inconvenienced.” They’ve been ditching Covid-19 precautions such as face mask use as if they were underwear made out of nails and sandpaper. Even when folks claim that they’ve been “careful,” treat such statements with a fanny pack of salt. There are now like over 330 million definitions of “careful,” give or take a few million, as Nina L. Shapiro, MD, Professor of Pediatric Ear, Nose, and Throat Surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has pointed out on Twitter:
Moreover, your immunity from previous vaccination or infection could be waning already. This is a bit like being at a job interview or first date and having your clothes slowly melt away. It could leave you a little too exposed during this uncertain “to surge or not to surge” period of time. This would be especially true if you’re at higher risk for infection or more severe Covid-19 outcomes.
Additionally, it’s not as if getting another booster would be particularly risky. There’s no indication that the side effect rate for the second booster is higher than that of the first booster or the primary series. The Pfizer second booster is exactly the same as Pfizer’s first booster, which was the same as the first two doses of the Pizer Covid-19 vaccine. The Moderna second booster is the same dose as Moderna’s first booster, which was half the dose (50 micrograms) of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccines for the two-dose primary series. If the Covid-19 vaccines somehow turned you into a gigantic magnet and caused keys and other metallic objects to stick to your forehead, as some on social media have been claiming, you’d already be looking like the refrigerator door of a family with several elementary school kids by now.
On the other hand, the weather is getting warmer and more humid. Activities have been progressively moving outdoors. All of this may decrease transmission of the virus to some degree. Plus, Moderna and Pfizer have been working on new Covid-19 vaccines that will be designed to offer better protection against the Omicron variants than the original mRNA vaccines have. For example, a pre-print uploaded on April 15 to Research Square described how Moderna has been testing the use of a bivalent vaccine that includes mRNA that codes for spike proteins found on the original pandemic-causing severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) as well as mRNA that codes for spike proteins studding the Beta variant of the SARS-CoV-2. Bivalent means that the vaccine has two different things for your immune system to react to accordingly. The Moderna researchers found that this new bivalent combination appears to generate higher antibody levels against the Omicron variant than the current Moderna Covid-19. Such newer vaccines aren’t available to the general public now but may be so later this year prior to the Fall.
So, to quote, from the TV game show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, what’s the final answer? The CDC press release does quote the following from Walensky about getting the second booster: “This is especially important for those 65 and older and those 50 and older with underlying medical conditions that increase their risk for severe disease from Covid-19 as they are the most likely to benefit from receiving an additional booster dose at this time.” So if you do fall into those categories mentioned by Walensky, it’s a good idea to get the second booster. Another reason to get the booster if you are 50 years and older: if you are at greater risk of being exposed to the Covid-19 coronavirus. This would be the case if you work in health care, on commercial airplanes, on other public transit, in a mosh bit, at a restaurant, at a busy store, or in any other setting where you may be routinely amongst lots of other people.
Otherwise, if you are in the gray zone, so to speak, between 50 and 64 years of age without any underlying medical conditions or regular exposure to other people who may be infected, you could hold on a second. You could wait until later in Summer to see what more Omicron-specific vaccines are available. In the meantime, make sure that you maintain other Covid-19 precautions such as social distancing and wearing face masks while indoors in public. Remember, the Covid-19 vaccines isn’t like a full body concrete condom. It doesn’t offer 100% protection against Covid-19, regardless of how shots you have gotten, whether it’s one, two, three, four, or 87, as one man in Germany recieved.