The shots may help vulnerable Americans dodge serious illness or death. But some experts believe boosters must be improved and are calling for a new strategy.
As winter looms and Americans increasingly gather indoors without masks or social distancing, a medley of new coronavirus variants is seeding a rise in cases and hospitalizations in counties across the nation.
The Biden administration’s plan for preventing a national surge depends heavily on persuading Americans to get updated booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Now some scientists are raising doubts about this strategy.
Older adults, immunocompromised people and pregnant women should get the booster shots, because they offer extra protection against severe disease and death, said John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York.
But the picture is less clear for healthy Americans who are middle-aged and younger. They are rarely at risk of severe illness or death from Covid, and at this point most have built immunity through multiple vaccine doses, infections or both.
The newer variants, called BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, are spreading quickly, and boosters seem to do little to prevent infections with these viruses, as they are excellent evaders of immunity.
“If you’re at medical risk, you should get boosted, or if you’re at psychological risk and worrying yourself to death, go and get boosted,” Dr. Moore said. “But don’t believe that will give you some kind of amazing protection against infection, and then go out and party like there’s no tomorrow.”