Doctors analyze if and when COVID vaccine booster shots will be needed

Vaccine makers are launching studies to see if and when vaccinated individuals need booster shots against COVID-19.

It’s been six months since frontline healthcare workers first got their first doses.

"I think it’s a little early to say whether or not we’re going to need a booster. We may very well need a booster," said virologist Dr. Michael Teng of USF Health in Tampa.

Dr. Teng said the data is still coming in on the vaccines and how long they last.

"I think we’re pretty confident now that we’re six months through the first vaccination and even longer for the people who were in the first phase three trials that the vaccine immunity is lasting," he said.

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Those vaccine studies are ongoing and scientists said other research into people who actually got COVID-19 may provide some signs. 

LINK: COVID-19 vaccine distribution information in Tampa Bay area counties

"Now we know after a year, that people that have gotten infected still have pretty good immunity after a year," said Teng.

Earlier in the pandemic, the heads of vaccine makers Moderna and Pfizer floated the idea of needing boosters sooner, but scientists say maybe not.

"The head of Pfizer, Pfizer’s CEO said, ‘Oh, well, maybe after six months,'" Teng recalled. "No, not after six months. I think we know right now that after six months, the immunity in the vaccines is still pretty high and we now have data on that."

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Dr. Teng said the current vaccine works against the variants that are popping up, but scientists are watching mutations. 

They say they'll just have to wait and see about boosters.

"It’s not something people should worry about too much, and we’ll actually get the data in real-time as the pandemic progresses," said Teng.

Some scientists like Dr. Teng said they don’t expect the COVID-19 vaccine to be a yearly shot like the flu shot. But studies are looking into exactly how long immunity lasts and whether the vaccines will need to be tweaked for different strains.