St. Luke’s Health Network stops short of strongly endorsing new COVID booster shot

Written by on September 9, 2022

St. Luke’s Health Network stops short of strongly endorsing new COVID booster shot

By Brittany Sweeney
September 9, 2022

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — There’s a new bivalent COVID booster on the market, but a Lehigh Valley infectious disease expert is asking people to hold off on getting it — just for now.

The mRNA vaccine was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It contains the original strain as well as the BA4 and BA5 omicrons strains of the virus, which is what makes it bivalent.

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Dr. Jeffrey Jahre of St. Luke’s University Health Network said the latest doses released by Pfizer and Moderna are safe, but he’s waiting to see how effective they are.

“There’s no reason to believe that it isn’t as safe as the original vaccine,” he said. “So, it comes down to efficacy — how effective is it going to be? And we’re going to know that shortly.”

Jahre is senior vice president of medical and academic affairs at St. Luke’s and section chief emeritus of infectious diseases. He said the data out now is from studies on mice, but he’s waiting to recommend the latest booster until after he’s reviewed the human studies, which are under way.

“We know that it’s likely that at least preliminary data will be available in October, just a few weeks, so let’s at least wait for that and let’s not oversell the potential of this vaccine. I think that will lead to disappointment and a loss of credibility,” Jahre said.

He stressed that the most effective way to fight the pandemic is with vaccines.  He says people should get vaccinated, but adds people should pause on this latest shot until more information is known.

“We’re not telling you not to get the vaccine, what we’re telling you is to have some pause,” Jahre said. 

The bivalent booster is available within St. Luke’s University Health Network, as well as Lehigh Valley Health Network, officials said.


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