Baystate Health president weighs in on COVID-19 booster changes

Baystate Health president weighs in on COVID-19 booster changes
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 6:39 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) -The FDA is now recommending the development of a new COVID-19 booster shot specifically targeting the omicron variant.

We spoke with the president and CEO of Baystate Medical Center, Dr. Mark Keroack. Back in April, he told us he wasn’t recommending a second booster dose and he wasn’t planning to get one. But, his position has changed when it comes to a new version of the vaccine.

“When this omicron variant booster comes out, I’m definitely going to be getting it for myself,” said Dr. Keroack.

Dr. Keroack spoke with Western Mass News after the Food and Drug Administration Advisory Committee voted this week to recommend a reformulated COVID-19 booster shot targeting the omicron variant, as early as this fall.

“The more and more we have specific precise vaccines that really work against the current virus that’s going around, the more the disease will just be mild or trivial or really may be asymptomatic, no symptoms at all,” explained Dr. Keroack.

Dr. Keroack pointed out the current vaccines are based on the virus that emerged in late 2019.

“It’s kind of like a key into a lock the key might partly work or might work sort of ok but there’s nothing like designing something against the actual target that’s out there,” said Dr. Keroack.

He said altering the COVID booster shot is similar to updating flu shots every year.

“The flu comes around in different strains and what worked against last year’s flu doesn’t necessarily work against this year’s flu the coronavirus or COVID-19 is an RNA virus that is distantly related to the flu and so it does continue to change in terms of the way it looks to our immune system and the antibodies that we might’ve had against the original COVID virus are really not going to work as well against the new variants,” said Dr. Keroack.

Dr. Keroack agreed with the FDA recently calling 2022 a transition year and could soon change how we view COVID-19.

Pfizer is currently working on an updated booster shot which the company says is showing a high immune response against the omicron variant. The FDA is currently asking all vaccine makers to start clinical trials for updated boosters.