Should I get a COVID-19 booster?

On 12 September, a vaccine advisory group to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) once again will wrestle with the question of who in the United States should receive a booster shot to protect against COVID-19.

As several new variants and an uptick in COVID-19 hospitalization fuel concerns among some health officials and the public, three companies have made new COVID-19 vaccines that can be used as a booster (or as primary doses for the unvaccinated). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to approve at least one of these latest iterations before Tuesday’s meeting of CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which will address the question of who should receive it, and the panel’s discussion promises to be complicated.

Science spoke with clinicians, vaccine researchers, and biostatisticians about how they view the value of these latest shots. Several cautioned against falling into extremist camps—boosters are worthless or everyone must get boosters. “I just want people to have tempered expectations,” says Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at Emory University who specializes in evaluating vaccines. “There is room for reasonable debate about how much added value there is for a young, healthy person.” Two years ago, with the pandemic raging and vaccines dramatically cutting serious illness and death, there was little doubt about their value for everyone. Now, Dean says, “We’re in a very different situation than we were a few years ago.”