Study reveals that annual or biannual boosters are most effective in combating endemic COVID-19

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COVID-19 boosters are effective in protecting against hospitalization and severe illness. However, their effectiveness is waning, leading to confusion about the best time to receive an additional booster.

A team of scientists, led by professors at the Yale School of Public Health at Charlotte and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has the answer: updated boosters given on an annual basis or biannually greatly reduce the risk of long-term infection with endemic COVID-19.

The researchers found that if you don’t get a booster shot every year, your risk of infection is tripled.

The study published in Journal of Medical Virology is the first one to quantify the likelihood of infection after a boost with updated Moderna or Pfizer vaccinations.

Jeffrey Townsend is the lead author of this study. He is Professor of Ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Elihu Professor of Biostatistics in Yale School of Public Health. Waiting one and a 1/2 years almost doubles the risk of long-term infection as compared to boosting every year.

Researchers said that to boost protection against infection, updated vaccines are needed that can counter the changes that the virus undergoes as part of the natural evolution that occurs over time.

It is important to keep in mind that we are engaged in an arms race with an evolving virus, said Alex Dornburg. He was the co-leader of the study along with Townsend. As we’ve seen in the past, boosters must be updated to match current strains. The mRNA technology could allow us to update vaccinations even faster. We administer influenza vaccines annually.

Researchers found that booster shots every six months resulted in “very strong suppression” against infection. According to the analysis, only one out of 10 people who receive updated booster shots every 6 months are projected to contract COVID-19 in a 6-year period.

The analysis revealed that 3 out of 10 people would be more likely to contract COVID-19, if they were given an updated booster shot every year. This figure increased to nine out 10 in those who did not receive a booster shot.

Researchers’ data-driven models of infection risk over time drew on a number of immunological investigations of SARS-CoV-2 virus, COVID-19 virus, and other coronaviruses. These studies provided extensive data that allowed them to evaluate the risks of infection over time at different frequencies of boosting.

Townsend said that these results were based on an average person who had a normal immune response after boosting. The next step is to quantify the benefits for people with atypical immunity due to chemotherapy or immunosuppressive drugs.

The National Science Foundation funded the research.

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