San Diego Vaccine Expert Agrees: Fourth Vaccine Dose Likely

One of San Diego County’s leading vaccine experts, Dr. Mark Sawyer weighs in.

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As more Americans get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, there’s evidence more protection could be needed against the highly contagious omicron variant.

As health experts work to learn more about the evolving pandemic, a UK Health Security Agency report published last week found that 10 weeks after a booster shot, the vaccine’s effectiveness reduces up to 25%.

Pfizer executives said a fourth vaccine is likely needed in the future.

Dr. Mark Sawyer is a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Rady Children's Hospital and UCSD. He’s worked in the field of vaccines for more than two decades and recently served on federal committees to approve the COVID-19 vaccine.

The pill from drug maker Merck could become the first U.S. authorized at-home treatment for the coronavirus.

“This virus is particularly clever at making changes to avoid the immune system and that's what leads us to need more vaccines,” Dr. Sawyer said.

Dr. Sawyer said it’s possible the COVID-19 vaccine could either turn into an annual influenza shot, or the government could come up with a vaccine that targets part of the virus that does not mutate.

“I think a lot of water needs to go under the bridge before we figure that out, though, because it's going to depend on what happens with omicron and what happens with subsequent variants, if they develop,” Dr. Sawyer said. “We'll get more and more data as people are getting third doses. We'll get a larger group to observe and see how three doses are working. But I think it's possible we’ll need a fourth dose down the road.”

Most San Diegans NBC 7 spoke with Wednesday were on board with getting additional shots.

“I do trust scientists, though, cause they spend their life doing the research, right. And so, if it’s a fourth vaccine then, I’m willing to get it just because I care about my life and others,” Mercedes Chacon said.

A recent health scare with her baby, shifted Sandy Ansari’s sense of urgency to be fully vaccinated.

“I kind of felt even more urgent about encouraging those around me to take it more seriously and get vaccinated,” Ansari said.

Max Segrue has family members who are immunocompromised.

“I would be open to getting more boosters if that means that I can protect my family,” Segrue said.

Dr. Sawyer said it’s more important for people to get their first and second doses if they haven’t already because they are more susceptible to severe disease.

The two-dose COVID-19 vaccine still provides some protection against severe illness from the omicron variant, but a third dose is highly recommended and now required to be considered fully vaccinated.

Israel is the first country to approve a fourth vaccine dose for its most vulnerable to COVID-19.

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