New Recommendations From the CDC
With the ever-changing news surrounding COVID-19, many are left wondering if they should receive a fourth COVID-19 vaccine. Recently, the CDC updated their COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, stating that those over the age of 50 or those that are immunocompromised may receive a 2nd booster dose of the mRNA (Moderna) vaccine. According to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC, “the decision to allow for the second booster shot was especially intended for persons ages 65 and older, and persons ages 50 and older that have chronic health conditions (and received their 3rd dose at least four months ago).”
The updated CDC recommendations are as follows:
- People ages 12 years and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised may choose to receive a second booster dose using an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 4 months after the first booster dose.
- Adults ages 50 years and older who are not moderately or severely immunocompromised may choose to receive a second booster dose using an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 4 months after the first booster dose.
- Adults ages 18–49 years who are not moderately or severely immunocompromised and who received Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine as both their primary series dose and booster dose may receive a second booster dose using an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 4 months after the first Janssen booster dose.
- If the adult is ages 18-49 and received a J&J primary dose and an mRNA booster, no 2nd booster is currently recommended.
- If the adult is ages 50+ and received a J&J primary dose and an mRNA booster, they can receive a 2nd mRNA booster 4 months after the previous booster dose.
CDC Director Clears the Air
While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both protective against COVID-19, doctors and researchers are finding that the vaccines lose strength against the infection after a few months. “What we’re seeing is many people who have received their third shot are having waning levels of protection four, five, or sometimes six months after receiving the vaccine. We also know that of those people who have waning, older and immunocompromised populations are most susceptible to severe disease” states Dr. Walensky. Because researchers are finding that there are no known safety issues for those eligible to receive a 2nd booster shot, even those under 50 or not immunocompromised can safely receive the 2nd booster shot.
Additionally, Dr. Walensky noted that those who are up to date with the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine do not need a second booster if they were recently infected with the omicron variant, saying that the infection acts as a “natural boost” to your immune system. “If you’ve had omicron in the last two or three months, that really did boost your immune system quite well” Dr. Walensky states. Ultimately, even if you are above the age of 50 and healthy, getting the 2nd booster shot is completely up to the individual.
Vaccines Around the World
On January 2nd, 2022, the Israeli Government approved a fourth dose of the Pfizer vaccine for those 60 years or older, healthcare workers, and immunocompromised persons who have received their third dose at least four months prior. Using information and data from the Israeli Ministry of Health national database, a recent study showed that individuals age 60 or older who received the forth COVID-19 vaccine after four weeks had lower infection rates than those who received the forth COVID-19 vaccine after 3 weeks, and those who have only received the third COVID-19 vaccine.
The findings of this study are important because during the 3-month study period, researchers found that protection against severe COVID-19 infection did not decrease. The infection rates of those who received the fourth COVID-19 vaccine were significantly lower than those who did not receive the fourth dose.
What Does This Mean to Me?
Given the recommendations from the CDC, along with the data from the aforementioned study, it is recommended that individuals 65 or older or those who are immunocompromised receive the fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Research shows that there is no harm in receiving the fourth dose and protection against severe illness is increased, especially the older you are.
It is important to understand that these recommendations are based on one study done over a short period, and the absolute decrease in hospitalizations and deaths was small. However, the benefits of a second booster, in the right population, clearly outweigh the risks. To find a vaccine near you, visit https://www.vaccines.gov/. If you have any questions, contact your Northern Virginia Family Practice provider. We will continue to provide updates as news continues to break during these ever-changing times.