UNMC Infectious Disease Expert: We Can Take Our Time on Booster Shots

Sept. 28, 2021, 3:55 p.m. ·

Dr. Mark Rupp
UNMC infectious disease expert Dr. Mark Rupp. (Photo from Zoom)

Listen To This Story

COVID vaccine boosters should be available this week in Nebraska for people 65 years old and older and other higher risk residents. Now there’s some advice on whether you actually need the booster and when everyone else will be able to get them.

The FDA’s approval of the Pfizer booster means higher risk people, like residents of long-term care facilities, people who have jobs that expose them to the virus more than others and people 65 years and older can now get the shot. Dr. Mark Rupp is an infectious disease expert at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha and said for most of us who have been vaccinated, there’s not much to worry about.

“The vaccine for those who have been fully-vaccinated and who are immunocompetent remains very, very effective in preventing severe disease, so I think people need to be reassured that they don’t need to go screaming in to get their booster doses right away,“ Rupp said. “They are well-protected, even against this delta variant.”

He said there is a difference between third shots and booster shots. Third shots were approved a few months ago for immunocompromised people who may not have gotten quite the level of protection they needed with the first two shots. Booster shots approved just recently by the FDA are for people who got the vaccines when they first came out, had a good response and now that effectiveness is starting to fade. Rupp says booster shots for everyone else are still a question mark.

“I think it’s still an open question as to when most people will need a booster,” Rupp said. “The data is going to be watched very closely and as the FDA sees further evidence of potentially waning immunity in otherwise healthy people who got immunized, then they’re going to make further recommendations.”

He said COVID variants like delta have moved the goalposts when it comes to achieving herd immunity and that could still be unrealistic in the near term. He said he expects the FDA to approve booster shots for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines as well.