For most Americans, the threat of coronavirus has declined dramatically. Like the flu, the coronavirus
now requires few precautions. However, for older people, and the immunocompromised, the
coronavirus remains a significant risk. Those who are over 70 years old and have impaired immune
systems make up the vast majority of the roughly 300 people in the United States still dying every day
from Covid-related causes, in the spring of 2023.
Should these at-risk individuals get a booster shot? Britain and Canada have already authorized another
round of booster shots for older and immunocompromised citizens. So far, the US has not. Why? In
January, in an effort to simplify messaging, the FDA announced that they would only recommend an
annual Covid booster for Americans (similar to the annual flu shot). The FDA believes that simplifying the
Covid-19 vaccination regimen will lead to more individuals getting vaccinated in the coming years. This is
based on the fact that boosters will only work if people get them. Only 16% of Americans, and only 42%
of adults over 65 opted for the last round of booster shots. Part of the reason may have been because
people found the recommendations too confusing.
However, some doctors believe that this one-size fits all approach from the FDA is inadequate for such a
large and diverse group that includes the elderly and the immunocompromised. Some doctors believe
that a high-risk person should consult with a healthcare provider to decide whether an additional
booster vaccine is needed. This is because a single annual shot for an elderly person or an
immunocompromised person may not be enough. For this group, protection from a booster shot in the
fall wanes by the spring and summer. In fact, the protection wanes so much that they are not
distinguishable from those who did not get boosted. The immunocompromised have a very short period
that the booster helps them and would need to re-up their vaccination more often.
There is a lot of differing information about who should get a Covid-19 booster and how often they
should get it. For the majority of Americans, it is unlikely that receiving a booster more often than once
a year is necessary. However, given how rapidly immunity from the booster declines for the
immunocompromised, it may be beneficial to receive a booster more often for this group. If you have
questions, please come see us and we would be glad to help you sort through the information.