Many Americans Can Now Get a 4th COVID Shot — But Should They Wait?

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(NEXSTAR) — Americans over 50 and those with underlying health conditions are now eligible for a second booster shot against COVID-19 — the fourth in the vaccine series for many. Populations eligible for the second booster can get it as early as four months after their last injection – but is there any reason to delay the extra dose?

Evidence we’ve gathered so far indicates that the protection you get against a COVID-19 vaccine does diminish slightly over time. It takes two weeks for your immune system to fully respond to a dose, but it’s tricky to time your dose just right.

“If we could predict exactly when the wave will hit us, then you would definitely want to time that to get your vaccination two weeks before those cases,” said Dr. Brian Garibaldi, director of the Johns Hopkins biocontainment unit. “But I think it’s unclear when that could be, and there’s reason to believe it will soon.”

dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, agreed: Twitter† He said that trying to time your second booster for just before the wave “reminds me of trying to time the stock market,” which he joked “rarely works.”

“I would get the chance,” Wachter tweeted.

As we see other countries experiencing spikes caused by the BA.2 variant of omicron, epidemiologists expect the US to see more COVID-19 cases soon.

“It is very likely that sometime in the coming weeks to a month we will see an increase in the number of cases here in the US,” Garibaldi said. Although he said he does not expect the increase to be nearly as large as the winter spike in COVID-19 cases caused by the BA.1 variant of ommicron.

It is not yet clear how much extra protection a fourth shot offers. An early study from Israel indicates that a fourth injection significantly reduced the risk of dying from COVID-19 for older people, but the study has not been peer-reviewed and there hasn’t been enough time to provide additional evidence in the US. collect

However, the risks associated with additional booster shots are very small.

“These shots are safe and offer a significant benefit,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote in their most recent booster eligibility announcement. “During the recent Omicron surge, those who received a boost were 21 times less likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those who were not vaccinated, and 7 times less likely to be hospitalized.”

While anyone over the age of 12 is eligible for a booster shot, only 30% have received one, according to CDC data. Garibaldi is urging people who are eligible for their fourth injection to do so, but more importantly, he is urging people to get their third injection if they haven’t already.

“Now is the time to do it to really give you the best chance of protection against serious illness or death if a new wave or some variant comes along,” he said.

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