Illinois public health officials say “if or when booster doses” of the COVID-19 vaccine are recommended, the rollout probably won't involve mass vaccination sites or daylong clinics at large venues.
“We have developed a robust vaccine delivery system to deliver the current COVID-19 vaccines, including doctors' offices and smaller medical providers, and that will be the blueprint if or when booster doses are recommended,” said Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health. “Pharmacies and other providers have current systems to deliver vaccines routinely, like annual flu shots.”
The prospect of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots was raised again Wednesday by Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and lead medical adviser to the White House on the nation's COVID-19 response.
“We know that the vaccine durability of the efficacy lasts at least six months, and likely considerably more, but I think we will almost certainly require a booster sometime within a year or so after getting the primary,” Fauci told CNN.
While preliminary research shows COVID-19 vaccines provide enough antibodies to remain effective against the virus through the first six months after inoculation, there was a reduction in the amount of antibodies in most people in those studies, public health officials said.
It will be several more months before researchers can conduct tests on those individuals who participated in the initial vaccine trials to learn how well their systems retained antibodies for an entire year. In the absence of that data, a booster shot seems likely, some believe.
“It is likely that booster shots will be necessary, most likely beginning in the fall,” said Dr. Kiran Joshi, colead of the Cook County Department of Public Health. “There are a number of unknowns, but as spring and summer progress, we should learn more about what will be necessary and how those booster shots can and will be administered.”
The first doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in Illinois were administered Dec. 15, 2020 — five months ago.
Medical experts have suspected that due to the ability of the virus to mutate quickly, an annual booster shot for COVID-19 may be necessary similar to influenza. Variants have become the predominant strain of infection in most states.
The U.K. variant is most predominant in Illinois with 4,891 confirmed infections. The Brazil variant, also known as P.1, has also been confirmed in 1,795 cases diagnosed in Illinois. So far, the vaccines have shown efficacy against variants, research has shown.
Public health officials have urged everyone to get vaccinated to avoid variants breaking through the vaccine efficacy. Having more people who are vaccinated lowers the ability of the virus to infect someone and mutate in a way that renders the vaccine ineffective.
“The good news is that the vaccines have been durable at least through six months,” said Dr. Jonathan Pinsky, medical director of infection control and prevention at Edward Hospital in Naperville. “A lot remains unknown about the duration of immunity after vaccination, though.”