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Coronavirus: Should you get a COVID-19 booster now or wait until the fall?

With a new version of the omicron virus responsible for more than 80% of the COVID-19 cases in the US, some are wondering if it is time for another vaccine.

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The BA.5 subvariant is a highly contagious version of the omicron variant of the original COVID-19 virus. While it is spreading quickly in the United States, it is not believed to be more dangerous than the original omicron variant.

Because it is circulating so quickly, doctors are suggesting that instead of waiting for a new vaccine scheduled to be released in the fall, you should get a vaccine now and one later.

“I would go ahead and get it and not wait until the new versions of the vaccine are released, especially if you’ve got anything of significance that you’re planning in the next two or three months like a trip or a wedding,” Dr. Thomas Giordano, chief of infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine, told The Dallas Morning News. “You don’t want COVID to mess those plans up.”

In light of the news that President Joe Biden has contracted COVID-19, others are wondering if a vaccine is useful at all. Biden had the original vaccine dosage — two shots — then he had two booster shots. Yet he still contracted the virus.

While immunity from vaccines and boosters wane, studies have shown that if you have been vaccinated and received boosters, you are far less likely to suffer from serious illness if you contract COVID-19.

“The threat to you [from BA.5] is now,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the White House’s chief COVID-19 medical officer, said in a briefing last week.

“If you are not vaccinated to the fullest — namely, not gotten boosters according to the recommendations — you are putting yourself at increased risk.”

Fauci contracted COVID-19 in mid-June after he had been fully vaccinated and had had two booster shots.

Getting boosted now “does not preclude you from also getting a [Omicron-specific] booster in the fall,” Fauci said during the briefing. “If the risk is now, address the current risk.”

Others feel that waiting for the next booster, in certain circumstances, may be a better idea.

Kawsar Talaat, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, agrees that if you are older or have conditions that put you at risk for severe COVID-19, then getting a vaccine now is the right thing to do.

However, if a person is younger than 50, is healthy, and has had one booster, waiting could be a better choice.

“If you’re under 50, you don’t have any risk factors for severe disease, and you’re not moderately or severely immunocompromised, if you are a healthy person and you have had your [first] booster, I would wait,” Talaat told National Geographic.

When are the new vaccines on the way?

Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna had said that updated, omicron-targeting vaccines could be ready by late August. However, reformulating shots to cover the subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 would push timelines through October.

Last month, the FDA decided that the next COVID-19 booster needed to target the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. The FDA had mainly reviewed data concerning BA.1, an earlier subvariant of omicron, prior to the rise of BA.4 and BA.5.

After the rapid spread of the two subvariants, the agency asked vaccine makers to provide additional data on immunity produced by boosters that will target the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.

Who is eligible for a booster now?

Children older than 6 months can be vaccinated and adults 50 years or older — or those who are immunocompromised — can get a second booster shot if it has been at least four months since their last vaccination.

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