With the Delta Variant, Do I Need a Covid Booster Shot?

Although studies of a third dose are underway, experts agree that the vaccines are still working well, even against the Delta variant, and that booster shots are not necessary right now.


By Tara Parker-Pope

Covid-19 booster shots are in the news, but chances are that Americans won’t be getting an extra shot in the arm any time soon.

A surprise announcement from the vaccine maker Pfizer-BioNTech that it plans to seek authorization for a booster shot in the United States has prompted new worries among the general public about the effectiveness of Covid vaccines against the highly contagious Delta variant. Pfizer said it plans to seek authorization for a booster shot in the coming weeks, citing the possibility that protection against the coronavirus will wane six to 12 months after full immunization with the current two-shot regimen.

But Pfizer’s talk of booster shots has been dismissed as premature by some of the world’s leading vaccine experts, who note that all evidence suggests that the Pfizer shots, along with the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, continue to provide strong protection against Covid-19.

A joint statement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration offered a quick rebuke to the Pfizer announcement, noting that public health officials, not private pharmaceutical companies, would make the decision about booster shots.

“Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time,” the statement said. “We are prepared for booster doses if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed.”

Even so, searches on Google for booster shots surged amid continuing worries about the Delta variant and the risk of breakthrough infections among the vaccinated. Adding to the confusion is the news that Israel’s Ministry of Health said on Monday it would begin offering a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine to severely immunocompromised adults, including cancer and organ transplant patients, in the country’s first step toward booster shots for the most vulnerable.

So is a booster shot in your future? We talked to leading experts about whether booster shots are imminent and why it may be risky to give extra doses to the fully vaccinated in wealthy countries when many people around the world haven’t gotten their first shots. Here are answers to common questions.

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