Will a COVID-19 booster shot be necessary? It depends on who you ask

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — One part of the COVID-19 fight that is not over is the vaccination effort, and there is some confusion Friday about booster shots.

Drug manufacturer Pfizer is in the process of seeking Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization for a third COVID vaccine dose. In the meantime, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FDA issued a statement Friday saying a booster is not necessary.

As the head of infectious diseases at Rochester General Health, Dr. Ed Walsh says more data is needed when it comes to the booster shot debate.

“We don’t know we actually need one, and my advice to people who call me is to wait and see. Let’s see what the result is,” Dr. Walsh said.

Walsh, who has been locally involved in assessing booster doses since the first phase of vaccine trials, says researchers are now analyzing a couple of major factors.

“We’ve been involved with assessing booster doses in both the Phase 1 group as well as Phase 3 group that’s been studied here at RGH as part of the program between University of Rochester and RRH," Walsh said. "In both those groups, we’ve been giving booster doses to look at the effect of actually giving a booster dose: One how well is it tolerated? We’ve learned it’s well-tolerated and secondly, we also learned it raises antibody levels quite substantially even well above those that were obtained after first two doses.”

As new hospitalizations are beginning to rise again in parts of the country, Dr. Walsh says, for now, those who are fully vaccinated are ok.

“I can tell you here at RGH, we have seen only one person that I know of, that was immunized, and then became hospitalized. Nationally the data looks like it’s 99.5% of the COVID hospitalizations are unimmunized individuals, so clearly the vaccines are still very effective and this, by the way, is with the variant viruses circulating,” Dr. Walsh said.

When asked if the Delta variant was here in Rochester, Walsh said based on the data he has seen, it is locally present, but it represents a small percentage of cases. Fortunately, he has not seen many come into the hospitals right now.