My primary-care physician, Dr. Alex Lickerman, discusses the question everyone’s asking: should you get that bivalent booster? (For most people it would be their third booster and the fifth Covid shot). You can access Alex’s post by clicking on the screenshot below. (Be sure to look at the graphs and read it all.)
Alex always looks at the science before he decides what’s to recommend, and by that I mean the primary literature. When I first asked him about whether to get a booster, he said he didn’t know because the data hadn’t been published, and all the existing studies were on antibody levels in mice. Now he looks at more data. I’ll give his conclusion below but do have a look at his post.
My own decision was to get the booster simply because I’m traveling tomorrow, but, as always, consult your own doctor or decide from the data themselves. People tend to get covid on airplanes these days (a friend who just returned from Boston said only 5% of the passengers on her Southwest flight wore masks), and Alex said that it couldn’t hurt me to get one before traveling—but it might not help me much, either.
CONCLUSION: Should you get the bivalent booster? In the absence of human trial data, we might think about this question as follows: We can be reasonably certain that the bivalent booster will produce a level of neutralizing antibodies that diminishes the risk of infection from COVID. We don’t know how long that protection will last, but a fair guess would be from 3 to 6 months. If there is some reason you feel the need to reduce your risk over the next 3 to 6 months, say, for travel, getting the bivalent booster would seem reasonable. On the other hand, if in addition to being vaccinated, you’ve had COVID recently (meaning you’ve been infected with an Omicron variant), likely the same level of protection accrues, obviating the need for the bivalent booster. If your main concern is dying from COVID and you’ve already received the primary series and one or two boosters, your risk is so low that getting another shot would seem superfluous. If you are at high risk for dying from COVID, while there is no data to suggest the bivalent booster might further reduce your risk beyond levels afforded by the primary series and one or two boosters, there is also likely little risk of getting it. In the absence of data to guide us, this would then be a personal decision.
Often Alex answers questions in the comments, so if you have any, put them below. I’ll tell him that he might look at the comments.