COVID- 19 booster shots studied in Seattle

SEATTLE — While newly eligible 12-15 year-olds are just lining up for their first dose of Pfizer, some health care workers are getting closer to needing a booster.

It’s been five months since the first health care workers in Washington got vaccinated at University of Washington Medicine on Dec. 15, 2020.

Exactly when a booster will be needed depends on what researchers discover. So far, there’s been talk of eight to 12 months until one may be needed.

“It’s highly likely that within a reasonable period of time we’re going to wind up requiring a booster, " said Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “When the level of protection starts to dwindle down — as happens over time — or when we start seeing more breakthrough infections, you’re going to see boosters.”

Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer was asked about booster shots.

“This could become sooner than late. I believe from September, October, but this is something again, but the date, I need to confirm,” said Bourla. “And also this is something that the health care authorities, in our case here in the U.S., CDC, will have to see what FDA approves and then makes the recommendation how best to protect the American people.”

Deborah Fuller, Ph.D., is a microbiologist studying vaccines at UW Medicine.

“We need to be on top of this. We can’t allow immunity to wane or a new variant to emerge. Now that we have the technology at hand we can quickly respond to this and get ready,” said Fuller.

She says so far, research shows strong immune responses at six months, and she expects it could last up to a year or longer.

“With waning immunity, it is not like a cliff, it’s not like it’s just going to suddenly disappear tomorrow. It is a very slow, progressive thing,” explained Fuller.

She is researching whether it is better to get a different kind of vaccine as a booster.

“How does that influence your immune response, and could there be that added benefit of having two different vaccines training your immune system to respond perhaps even better to the virus?” she said.

The boosters are being studied in clinical trials for approval by the FDA.

So where will you get your booster? While it could be a mass vaccination site, Fuller thinks your pharmacy or doctor’s office is more likely.

With more vaccines available, she says your doctor could decide which combination is best for you, especially if you are immunocompromised and may not get the same antibody response.