Explained: Should I get a regular booster or wait for Omicron-specific jab?

Explained: Should I get a regular booster or wait for Omicron-specific jab?

With new generation COVID vaccines coming into the foray, people are now spoilt for choice. And this also led to a crucial dilemma, as many are now confused about which jab to take as a booster and when. Responding to this, Kathryn Edwards, a paediatrician and director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee told scientific journal Nature, “These are hard questions, and there are no real right answers.”

Apart from the mRNA and protein vaccines, many countries are also considering mRNA vaccines with spike sequences both from ancestral virus and from Omicron variants.

How long should I wait between COVID-19 vaccine boosters?

Ideally, one should wait for at least 4 months to get the COVID-19 booster. Though it is not harmful to take the booster before that, the benefit is probably not that much. 

A study recently pointed out, that the antibody response to vaccination was weaker in people who had high antibody levels prior to getting the shot as compared to those who have a lower level of antibodies. 

Viral immunologist Pablo Penaloza-MacMaster at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago pointed out to Nature, “If the vaccines are given in a very short period of time, without allowing a resting period, you’re minimizing the effect.”

Can you get too many boosters?

In case, the booster doses are reasonably spaced out then there is nothing called “too many” vaccines. But this is from an individual standpoint, meanwhile, from public-health standpoint, “a focus on boosting everyone could shift attention and resources away from the people who most need boosters: those over 50 years old, and people with pre-existing health conditions,” pointed out microbiologist John Moore at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City

Adding to it, Penaloza-MacMaster said, boosters can significantly decrease the risk of serious disease for these groups. For younger people without risk factors, the benefits of a booster are less pronounced, but it is possible that a person who was boosted shortly before an infection might clear the virus faster— and shed less virus into their community — than someone whose antibody levels are lower when they are infected.

Should I get a regular booster or wait for one that is Omicron specific?

Though some countries are already considering introducing Omicron specific jabs, most are yet to get access to them, including India. 

Responding to queries regarding whether one should wait for new age vaccines, most experts opined, the decision should be a personal one, and people should factor in whether they’re at risk of serious disease, their community’s infection rate and how well they can shield themselves from coronavirus. 

It also depends on how long the wait is for the Omicron-specific vaccine, says Angela Branche, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York. “The answer to that question is constantly changing,” she says. “If you asked me two or three months ago, I’d have said the Omicron-specific version of the vaccine is several months away, get your booster now.” 

However, some are of the point of view that there is no need to delay the vaccine. “There’s so little potential advantage to having an Omicron booster,” says Moore. “Why bother, when you can use the existing booster sooner?”

 

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