Will the COVID-19 vaccine require a booster? Local doctor says more data is needed


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A little more than six months ago, the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered in Rhode Island.

It was a historic day, and since then, more than 1.2 million doses have been administered in the state, according to the latest data from the R.I. Department of Health. As of Monday, nearly 629,000 Rhode Islanders were fully vaccinated, which is almost 60% of the state’s population.

“I think Rhode Island’s done really well in terms of vaccination and getting fully vaccinated,” said Dr. Karen Tashima, the director of clinical trials at Lifespan’s Immunology Center at The Miriam Hospital.

Tashima is also leading the state’s clinical trials for the Novavax vaccine, which could become another tool in the fight against the coronavirus.

“We’re ejecting the protein, plus an adjuvant that helps the immune system respond to that protein, and so that’s what your body is making antibodies to is the spiked protein,” Tashima explained.

There are conflicting reports about whether those who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine will need a booster shot in the coming months. Tashima said it’s still unclear and more data is needed.

“We know that for at least six months it looks good, but we’re waiting for the one year from the Pfizer and Moderna study to be released,” Tashima said. “We’ve seen the COVID rates go way down so we don’t think there’s a lot of transmission right now.”

Tashima said all of the drug companies could be getting ready to produce booster shots.

“I think there is anticipation that we might need boosters, and that’s just being extra preparatory,” she said. “We want to be prepared for the actuality that we might need a vaccine booster, but I think they’re just being cautious.”

For anyone who’s coming up on six months from receiving their second dose, Tashima assured they should be confident with the vaccine.

“Go about your daily life and wait for some updates from the clinical trials,” she said.

As for the Delta variant going around, Tashima said those who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are still mostly protected.

“88% is great. It’s still really really good,” she said. “The Delta variant will probably become a very predominant strain here. It’s already happening, we should be aware of that.”

In the meantime, some infectious disease experts are deciding whether the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine could require a booster shot of one of the other vaccines to help protect against the Delta variant.

Tashima recommended following the CDC’s guidelines if you’re fully vaccinated, but if you plan to go into a big crowd and don’t know who else is vaccinated, she said it’s OK to wear a mask as a precaution.

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