A fourth COVID-19 vaccine may be recommended this fall

Posted at 3:11 PM, Feb 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-21 22:32:33-05

(WXYZ) — Will a fourth COVID vaccine dose be needed to fight the coronavirus?  U.S. health regulators are closely monitoring the situation and hinted that a second booster shot might be recommended later this year. 

There is still a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the coronavirus. I know people want to put the pandemic behind them, but the virus has not disappeared. So while COVID numbers are looking much better here in the US, there are a couple of key things that health officials need to keep a close eye on.

First are new variants that could pop up, like omicron’s subvariant BA.2. BA.2 may be spreading slowly in the US compared to the original omicron, but it’s become the dominant variant in other countries like Denmark. And we can’t ignore the fact that hospitalizations and deaths in that country have since increased.

The other key factor we need to watch is our vaccines. Vaccination and booster shots really helped bring our numbers down when fighting omicron. But new research has shown that booster shots can wane with time. Right now, Pfizer is studying a fourth dose - an Omicron-specific vaccine for people aged 18 to 55. We may or may not need this fourth dose. But research will definitely guide the decision. Plus it’s important that we’re prepared for what may come next. So that’s why the FDA is considering a fourth dose. I can tell you that any new recommendations will be based on data from the real world and from ongoing studies.

A fourth dose is available to certain people right now, when might a fourth dose be available to everyone?  

That’s right, back in October, the CDC updated its recommendation. They allowed people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised – meaning they have a weakened immune system - to get a fourth dose of either Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine. And the reason why they did this was that research showed that these people had a poor response to the initial primary vaccine series. And that increased their risk of severe COVID-19 and death.

As for when a fourth dose might be available for the rest of the general public, I’m hearing that it could be offered in the fall if approved. That makes sense – the weather gets colder, people spend more time indoors which makes it easier for viruses to spread.

Right now, our vaccines are working well, and booster shots are still offering high protection.  So I’ll once again stress the importance of getting vaccinated and then boosted if you have not already done so.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.