Why COVID-19 Booster Vaccines May Be Warranted This Year

A UK health authority representative discussed the possibility of a fall season booster to prevent another winter surge of cases.

The likelihood of indicated COVID-19 booster vaccines for the prevention of seasonal surges is increasing, based on conversations and research surrounding the matter of the pandemic virus eventually reaching endemic status.

An article published to The BMJ today highlighted what a booster vaccine may entail, and when its ideal distribution would take place.

Per the UK-based medical journal, authorities are planning to roll out booster COVID-19 vaccines in the fall, to prevent another winter season series of outbreaks. BMJ podcast guest Anthony Harnden, chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation in the UK, said a combination of concerns would warrant a boost dose: transmissible variants, unknown duration of protection, and the need for an overall safety net while the virus remains unmanaged.

The timing of the booster, of course, would provide increased immunity prior to the winter—a time which, in the US, new daily cases surpassed 200,000 then 300,000 marks within a month.

“We certainly don’t want to see a winter like we’ve seen this winter,” said Harnden. “And if we’ve got new variants circulating and we’ve got dropping levels of immunity due to the vaccination, then that becomes an imperative to do a booster.”

Harnden also stressed that data showing the necessity of a booster dose may not be available in time for fall 2021 rollout, but may be more dependent on the need for more assured immunity.

On the matter of annual COVID-19 vaccination, Harnden foresees it as a likelihood for at least the coming years.

“It just depends on the length of duration of protection,” he explained. “The virus mutates, [but it] probably doesn’t mutate as much or as quickly as the influenza virus, so it’s very difficult to predict whether this is going to be an annual vaccine or for how many years.