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VERIFY: Is it legal to receive fourth COVID shot before it's approved? Is it effective?

There is currently no guidance in the United States on a fourth dose.

ATLANTA — As COVID-19 remains a concern in Georgia, many are wondering if a fourth dose of the vaccine will keep you and your family safe.

Would a fourth dose offer even more protection? And is it legal to get one before it is approved?

Our Verify team asked the experts.  

THE QUESTION 

Is it medically safe to get a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine? Is it legal to receive a fourth dose before it's approved?

OUR SOURCES

THE ANSWER

More research is needed to know if the shot is medically safe right now. Meanwhile, it is legal for you to get it, but you won't have an easy time finding a provider to give it to you.

WHAT WE FOUND

Right now, Israel is giving out a fourth dose of the COVID vaccine to adults age 60 and up.

Early studies from the country's Sheba Medical Center find the fourth shot or 2nd booster to be highly effective. 

According to the reports, the extra dose tripled people's resistance to getting seriously sick. Researchers there said the boost in antibodies was high, but not enough to prevent you from catching omicron.

However, there is currently no guidance in the United States on a fourth dose. Dr. Carlos Del Rio, an infectious disease expert with Emory University, said you don't need one yet.

"I am not convinced a fourth dose is needed at this point," he explained. "At the end of the day what we need to get is more people vaccinated globally."

A new study from the CDC found a third dose of the COVID vaccine was 90% effective at keeping you out of the hospital with the omicron variant.

Yet, Dr. Del Rio also warned there could be risks with getting another booster so soon.

"There's some data that the more you boost, you may be actually decreasing your immunity against the virus," he said. "So, it may actually be working in a counterproductive way at some point in time."

While more research is needed, Dr. Del Rio said he predicts a different type of booster shot might be best.

"I think a fourth shot with a different vaccine more directed to viruses that are currently circulating would actually be needed," he said.

As for the legalities of getting a fourth dose, that's a different story. Legal analyst Page Pate said there is no law that prohibits you from getting an additional dose.

"You won't break the law by getting an additional booster shot," he said. "But at the same time, you're not going to find it widely available from health departments, your primary doctor or anyone else until the CDC makes that recommendation."

Previously, CDC leaders warned that if health care providers give out shots before they are approved, they may not be legally protected if something goes wrong with the vaccination.

The only way you could get in trouble for getting an extra dose, Pate said, is if you lie about your vaccine card.

"You certainly run into some problems if you forge or falsify your vaccine card in order to get that additional booster shot," he said. "But if you simply show up at a clinic and you say you want another shot and they're willing to give one to you, that's not a violation of any law."

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