Coronavirus: Should you wait to get a booster until there’s an omicron-specific shot?

As scientists are searching for answers about the new variant of the COVID-19 virus, those who have been vaccinated are wondering if they are protected against what seems to be a highly contagious form of the coronavirus.

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And, if you are vaccinated and considering a booster shot, should you wait to see if current vaccines fight the new variant — called omicron — or should you go ahead and get a booster shot of the current Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccines?

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, addressed the question on Monday.

Walensky announced that the CDC had strengthened its recommendation on COVID-19 booster shots. The CDC is now recommending that all adults “should” get an additional dose of vaccine.

Walensky specifically mentioned the omicron variant.

“The recent emergence of the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters, and prevention efforts needed to protect against COVID-19,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement Monday.

On Nov. 19, the CDC cleared booster doses for all adults over age 18. Those over 50 were told they “should” get a booster shot.

The CDC is now saying everyone over age 18 “should” get the shot as the omicron variation is spreading around the world.

Anyone who had had a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago and those who had a Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago are eligible for a booster shot.

Scientists say it will take at least a couple of weeks to determine if the current vaccines are effective against the new variant or if an omicron-specific vaccine will be needed.

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to President Biden, omicron-specific vaccines may not be necessary.

Fauci told PBS’ Judy Woodruff that he would be “surprised” if the current vaccines and boosters did not have an effect on the omicron variant.

“From our experience, Judy, I can say that I would be very surprised if the level of antibodies that are induced by our vaccines, particularly following a booster, would not have some effect in countering this, because, when you look at the delta variant, which is a variant that is not really one that the vaccine is specifically directed against, yet, when you get a high enough titer following vaccination, and certainly following a booster, you cover the delta variant,” Fauci explained.

“You have a crossing over of protection to it. So, knowing what we know about variants, I would be surprised if there was at least some degree and maybe a significant degree of protection. We don’t know that yet until we prove it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case.”