A new analysis led by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that vaccinated people who get infected with COVID-19 might be able to go longer between booster shots than those who have never been infected. The analysis found that those who are vaccinated against COVID-19 and have been infected have a very high level of protection against hospitalization and severe disease a year after their most recent infection or shot.
Hybrid immunity – the mix of protection provided by COVID-19 vaccination as well as infection – was over 97% effective at preventing hospitalization and severe COVID-19 among fully vaccinated individuals a year after their most recent infection or vaccination, according to the analysis published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. WHO stated in a statement that “The analysis shows that hybrid immunity provides higher protection, demonstrating the advantages of vaccination even after people have had COVID-19.”
The analysis suggested that such data could be used to tailor booster shot guidance, adding that booster campaigns could be timed before an expected surge in COVID-19 activity. The analysis stated that “Individuals with hybrid immunity had the highest magnitude and durability of protection, and as a result might be able to extend the period before booster vaccinations are needed compared to individuals who have never been infected.” It also suggests that “given the waning protection for both infection-induced and vaccine-induced immunity against SARS-CoV-2 infection or reinfection, wider vaccination among populations could be timed for rollout before periods of expected increased incidence, such as the winter season.”
The data comes as the Food and Drug Administration’s committee of outside vaccine experts are set to talk about the COVID-19 booster strategy next week. FDA’s Peter Marks said in a statement announcing the meeting on Jan. 26, “Since the initial authorizations of these vaccines, we have learned that protection wanes over time, especially as the virus rapidly mutates and new variants and subvariants emerge. Therefore, it’s important to continue discussions about the optimal composition of COVID-19 vaccines for primary and booster vaccination, as well as the optimal interval for booster vaccination.”
The Biden administration has already floated the idea of an annual COVID-19 booster, but such a plan still faces many questions, including what the makeup of the shot should be and when it should be offered. The data from this new analysis could potentially provide some important information in making such decisions.