By Caroline Vandergriff

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The debate over whether or not there is a need for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots is heating up ahead of a crucial meeting Friday, Sept. 17.

An FDA advisory panel will meet to discuss whether most people need a third dose.

Both Pfizer and Moderna are pushing for people to get booster shots, but the FDA has remained neutral on the issue.

A third dose of the vaccine is currently available for those considered to be immunocompromised.

“I do get quite a few questions about whether they’re eligible, or whether they should,” said Dr. Mo Rezaie with Fort Worth Primary Care.

Pfizer is now making the case that everyone 16 and older should get the extra dose about six months after receiving the second vaccine shot.

That’s when the company claims the vaccine loses some of its effectiveness.

“The consensus will be at some point, just like we have to get repeat flu vaccines every year, we probably will need to boost or maintain immunity by getting an additional dose of the vaccine,” Dr. Rezaie said.

Right now though, there’s considerable debate in the scientific community about whether a third dose is needed for everyone.

The FDA says the current vaccines still provide protection against severe disease and death from COVID-19.

“Let’s talk about getting vaccinated first and then we’ll worry about boosters,” said Dr. Eric Hoy, an immunologist and the chief scientific officer for Immuno Concepts. “And rather than calling it a booster, I would call it the third dose for immunocompromised patients or for those who haven’t responded to the first two, and concentrate on that aspect of it to get as many people protected as possible.”

Many health experts believe convincing people to get their first, or even second, shot should be the priority at the moment.

Slightly less than half of eligible Texans are fully vaccinated, and nearly two million people in the state are currently overdue for their second shot.

“The population at large, I hope they don’t get distracted with the boosters versus additional doses,” said Dr. Rezaie. “It’s just go get the vaccine. Go get your first dose. It’s not too late. Protect yourself.”

Dr. Rezaie also says there’s no need to panic or rush to get a third dose if you’re already fully vaccinated, but you can consult with your physician if you have concerns.

If the FDA advisory panel approves Pfizer’s request to authorize the booster, it will still have to go through the CDC’s process, which means booster shots for everyone likely won’t be rolled out until the end of next week at the earliest.

Caroline Vandergriff