Opinion | Why Experts Can’t Seem to Agree on Boosters

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By Markham Heid

Mr. Heid is a health and science journalist who has covered the Covid-19 pandemic, among other topics.

Should you get another Covid booster shot?

It seems like a straightforward question, but experts continue to butt heads over its answer.

The Food and Drug Administration recently authorized a second booster for everyone age 50 or older and for those with compromised immune systems. Early research from Israel — a country that has tended to run a few months ahead of the United States in terms of both infections and the rollout of countermeasures — indicates that a second booster is safe and may provide some additional protections against severe illness.

Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in San Diego, says the F.D.A. made the right call. “No one wants to get a booster shot, and I wish we didn’t need them,” he said. But in his view, the data from Israel are compelling, and older adults or those with risk factors for Covid-19 should get the second booster. When it comes to the first booster, which federal authorities authorized last November for all adults, he says the shot had “a vital effect” and should have been pushed out sooner.

But others disagree. “I’ve always been skeptical of the first booster, and I’m even less sure about the second booster,” said Dr. Phil Krause, the former deputy director of the F.D.A.’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review.

Dr. Krause left the F.D.A. last fall after the White House endorsed the initial booster shot before his agency had reviewed the data. Like Dr. Topol, he says that boosters make sense for the elderly and people who are at high risk for severe Covid-19. But for everyone else, he says the data show that the initial two-shot mRNA vaccines provide strong and durable protection against severe illness, and the need for extra shots is, at this point, not warranted.

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