What to Know About Potential COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots

By: Sarah Katz

Moderna and Pfizer both announced they are researching whether a booster shot six to 12 months following the initial two-dose COVID-19 vaccine will offer lasting protection. While the studies are still ongoing, experts at the University of Pittsburgh don’t find it surprising that a booster shot may be necessary.

“There are two reasons you may need a booster shot,” said Dr. Mark Roberts, professor of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. “For some vaccines, the immunity they provide declines over time. The other reason is like influenza, COVID-19 appears to mutate rapidly, and the vaccine will need to be modified to respond to the new strains.”

Time will tell, but it’s unlikely that you’ll get your booster shot at a vaccination clinic.

“I think it will be more like the annual flu shot,” said Dr. Lee Harrison, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh. “There’s some discussion of combining flu vaccines with COVID-19 vaccine, but that hasn’t been worked out yet.”

It’s also unclear how often patients will need booster shots. In the meantime, experts urge patients to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they’re able.

“The most important point right now is to get vaccinated with the original vaccines as soon as possible,” Harrison said.

Anyone over the age of 12 can schedule an appointment at a UPMC vaccination clinic by visiting Vaccine.UPMC.com.