The United States continues rolling out its vaccine, with children aged 12 years and above receiving their shots.
Preparations are underway on the part of the vaccine makers for the next phase of the vaccination drive that includes introducing the booster doses.
Experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, believe that the booster doses for the vaccination will likely be required within a year from now.
The ongoing vaccination drive in the US.
At the moment, 3 vaccines are authorized for use in the US; these are the two doses of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine for those above 12 years of age, the two doses of Moderna for those above 18 years of age, and the single-dose J&J vaccine for individuals aged 18 and above.
Health experts and researchers predict that the immunity produced in the body following vaccination against the virus will likely wear off over the time
In that case, it will not be able to provide protection against the virus if it mutates, the probability of which arises within a year.
Hence a booster dose will be essential for all vaccinated individuals to maintain the immunity for a prolonged period as well as against new and mutated variants of the virus.
This is somewhat similar to tetanus vaccines being administered every ten years or flu vaccines being modified every year to counter the new strains of the flu virus.
Relevance of booster doses and requirement for new vaccines.
While explaining the dynamic of booster doses or the necessity of developing new vaccines, Dr. William Moss, professor, and executive director at the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, draws the example of tetanus-toxoid vaccines that are recommended to be administered every 10 years.
These are booster doses that push our immune system to remember the immunity and respond quickly to infections.
For covid-19 vaccines, it is not yet known how long the immunity will sustain, but it is obvious that the vaccine-induced immunity will not last forever, particularly against mutated strains of the virus.
Although it is common to use the previous vaccine formula as a booster dose, for covid-19, a new vaccine could be required.
As stated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on their official website, currently, the need and time of covid-19 booster doses are undecided, and no further doses are recommended at the moment.
Experts believe that the preparation for booster shots should be in perspective and decisions to be taken after observing the efficiency of the current vaccines over a period of time.
Frequency of booster doses.
Contrary to the prevailing predictions, experts like Dr.Fauci hold the view that nothing is clear yet.
He further adds that it is better to refrain from issuing a mandate that certain months down the lane, every vaccinated individual will need a booster dose.
Dr. Fauci, who is also the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, states that it is very much probable that booster doses might not be required for quite a long time.
Despite the unanimous predictions of the scientists from the chief vaccine manufacturing companies, the scientific community is not in agreement with requiring booster doses within a year.
According to studies the m-RNA vaccines manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer remain efficient for six months, which scientists believe is longer.
Consequences of skipping the booster dose.
Although the requirement of booster doses is not clear yet, missing out on one makes a person susceptible to the virus.
In case the booster doses become recommended for administration, those missing them will be at higher risk of contracting the virus compared to those who received the dose.
Studies are also going on to determine whether getting the same vaccine as a booster causes any different than a completely new vaccine.