Pittsburgh doctor weighs in on proposed COVID-19 booster shot

PITTSBURGH — As the highly-contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread, health officials are assessing whether or not a booster shot may be necessary.

This week, Pfizer announced plans to request approval for a third dose of its current COVID-19 vaccine, claiming that efficacy following the second dose declines over time.

Both the CDC and FDA, however, released a joint statement claiming “Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time.”

Dr. Marc Itskowitz, Internal Medicine Physician for Allegheny Health Network, agrees.

While the Delta variant has “mutated away from the vaccine,” Dr. Itskowitz told us that “excellent protection” is still being provided by the current doses, overall.

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The majority of individuals hospitalized against COVID-19 in the United States and across the world are unvaccinated individuals, he said.

“Once we see a situation where vaccinated patients are experiencing severe COVID-19 at a high rate, that would be the time to start talking about a booster.”

Dr. Itskowitz expects we could see the CDC begin to recommend booster shots within the next three to six months.

“Over time, we expect there will be a requirement for at least a booster, and likely a new formulation of vaccine to meet the challenge of this [Delta] variant.”

Pfizer officials recently announced plans to study the latter, in addition to rolling out a booster shot. In August, the company intends to start trials on a new coronavirus vaccine that would target Delta.

When it comes to a potential new vaccine or booster, Dr. Itskowitz believes it would make sense to first offer the shot to front-line health care workers, the elderly, and the immunocompromised, much like the original rollout.

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