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Texas Medical Association COVID-19 task force member answers questions on booster shots

When should most fully vaccinated individuals get their next COVID-19 shot?

AUSTIN, Texas — Leaders at the CDC are preparing to roll out COVID-19 booster shots next month, as long as the FDA gives the green light.

We talked to Dr. Mark Casanova, a member of the Texas Medical Association COVID-19 task force, about what we should expect in the coming weeks.

Here's what he had to say:

A little over a month ago, federal health officials said a booster shot was not necessary at that time. What's changed since then?  

Well, I think two factors. The key factor is the change in the virus itself. Now we're dealing with the delta variant as opposed to the alpha variant. The other reality is just the unfolding of real-time, real-world data, realizing that breakthrough infections are occurring. For most of this, they are not serious, but for those who have compromised immune systems, it is proving to be detrimental. 

The flu shot, we know, changes year to year. Do you think at some point these vaccines will be adjusted to fight the variant that we're currently seeing?  

Yes, that is a possibility that they will be backfilling, if you will, a different spike protein instructions, if, for lack of better terms, for our body to respond more effectively to this variant or other variants to come. What's important, however, is they still have really remarkable staying power for individuals who are otherwise healthy. It's those immunocompromised individuals who we're worried most about right now. That's why the recommendation is those who are immunocompromised, go ahead and get that third booster. Now, for the rest of us, we can wait eight months until after our last injection.  

Will the rollout for the booster shots mirror the way the rollout for the initial shots went as far as where you can get them signing up for an appointment, things like that?  

We don't believe so. And here's why. In the beginning, we were dealing with limited supplies and the need to vaccinate the masses, and, more specifically, the high-risk-individuals supply is adequate at this time. Now, again, we want to re-emphasize, if you're otherwise healthy, 50 years old, no underlying medical conditions, a healthy immune system, you do not need to go out and get that third shot at this time. If, however, you have a weakened immune system because of your own health problems or things we've done to you, in other words, getting new medications or chemotherapy, it affects your immune system. Yes, you need to go ahead and get that booster now. 

Do you think the way this vaccine has stood up over time, this will be something that we do annually every two years, every eight months? Will this be something that we continue to have to do as long as it is around?  

That's a wonderful question and that falls into the bucket of more information that we don't know that answer yet. Again, COVID does have its own life cycle throughout the year. The seasonal crud is what most of us would think of when we think about coronavirus. COVID-19 is obviously a very different player, much more vicious in its activity. So it's possible that we do end up eventually having boosters every so often. But the jury is out for that as of yet.

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