Why experts say it is too soon to tell if COVID-19 vaccine booster will be needed

Juan Carlos Guerrero
Posted at 6:55 PM, Jul 11, 2021

RICHMOND, Va. -- Confusion is mounting over conflicting messages about the potential for a COVID-19 booster shot. Drug company Pfizer announced it's seeking approval for a third dose, but federal health agencies say that may not be necessary.

"I actually started to cry when I got the vaccine, because it was such a relief and such a big weight off of me," said Megan Crawford.

She knows the devastating impact of COVID-19 all too well.

"I've been working in the hospital during COVID on the frontlines," she said.

Crawford is a speech language pathologist and PhD student at VCU Health. Not only has she seen the virus affect patients, but her family too.

"My aunt unfortunately passed from COVID in December," Crawford said.

So when she had the opportunity to be among the first people in Virginia to get the Pfizer vaccine right around that same time, she was all in.

"There was just no way I wasn't going to get it, especially since it was well tested, well researched," Crawford explained.

But fast forward more than half a year and Crawford's protection against the coronavirus may be waning according to the vaccine's maker.

Pfizer recently announced that its two-dose vaccine loses efficacy after six months, citing data out of Israel showing a 30% drop in preventing infection as the Delta variant circulates.

Virus Outbreak Pfizer Vaccine
Pfizer employees clap after line workers finished packing boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to be shipped at the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing plant in Portage, Mich., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, Pool)

RELATED: Fauci: Too soon to say if Americans may need vaccine booster

"Do we really see a need for a booster shot?" asked Deputy Director of the Richmond-Henrico Health Districts Dr. Melissa Viray.

That question is currently at the center of debate.

Pfizer says it's developing a third dose that would provide more protection from variants.

But the CDC and FDA offer a different take: fully vaccinated people do not need a booster shot at this time.

"We in the scientific community need to look at the entirety of the information, and it needs to be vetted by the scientific community," said Dr. Viray. "We don't know yet the true effectiveness of mRNA vaccines against Delta, but I am very reassured about not seeing severe disease."

She said the good news is that there hasn't been a change in the vaccine's effectiveness against hospitalizations and death.

"Don't be thinking that you need to be thinking about, 'oh when am I going to schedule? How am I going to schedule my booster?' Not yet," Viray explained.

While the possibility remains on the table, Crawford said she is just going to wait on what the experts recommend.

"I definitely would get a booster if indicated by my doctor and science and healthcare professionals," she said.

Pfizer plans to seek emergency use authorization for a booster shot next month. The company is scheduled to discuss the matter further with federal health officials Monday.

Mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Richmond Raceway.

Virginians age 12+ are eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. Pre-registration is no longer required,so go to Vaccine Finderto search for specific vaccines available near you or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-275-8343).

Depend on CBS 6 News and for the most complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Have You Been Fully Vaccinated?

People are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine
What you can and should not do once you have been fully vaccinated.

How to Protect Yourself and Others When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated

COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.

We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions—like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces—in public places until we know more.

These recommendations can help you make decisions about daily activities after you are fully vaccinated. They are not intended for healthcare settings.

Click here for more information from the Virginia Department of Health.