The United States is making great strides in battling the COVID-19 pandemic. Deaths and hospitalizations rates are on the decline following a surge from the highly transmissible Delta variant, and over 55 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. But despite COVID-19 mitigation efforts and vaccine efficacy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data last month showing Pfizer’s vaccine level of protection dropped significantly after four months of full vaccination.
So with protection waning, a booster became available.
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Weeks following the CDC announcement, the FDA authorized a booster dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for those ages 65 and older and some high-risk Americans. And even with this promising news, many Americans and even experts were left confused on what this means for the general public.
“As a physician, I follow science,” said Dr. Mary Therese Jacobson, Chief Medical Officer of Alpha Medical. “Our fund of knowledge is rapidly evolving during the pandemic. Scientific recommendations evolve as our fund of knowledge evolves. Unfortunately, translating science into policy has created confusion amongst patients, as well as healthcare providers.”
So, what is a vaccine booster and what is its purpose?
According to the CDC, a vaccine booster is administered when an individual has completed their series of a particular vaccine and protection against the virus has decreased over time. Additional doses are given to people with moderate to severe compromised immune systems. It’s generally recommended to receive a booster six months after your series is completed.
“The purpose of a vaccine booster is to ensure adequate immunity if exposed to the virus,” said Dr. Erica Wigdor, an internal medicine physician. “Since we do not know the exact duration of efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine, the booster will help protect those who are at increased risk and were initially vaccinated over six months ago.”
Who can currently get a Covid-19 booster?
Currently only individuals who received their full vaccination series of the Pfizer vaccine, and fall into one of the following categories: people 65 and older, people aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions and people ages 18-64 who are at an increased risk for Covid-19 exposure or transmission because of their job.
What do doctors think of the Covid-19 booster?
Since information is still limited and only a select few groups are eligible to receive a booster, doctors agree that adhering to CDC rules is the way to go.
“As of today, for people other than the high risk groups identified by the CDC who received the Pfizer vaccination series, it does not make much sense to waste resources on boosters for those who are already protected against severe disease,” said Dr. Jacobson. And with Americans over the age of 12 approved to get the Covid-19 vaccine, doctors are in unison that if you are eligible to get the Covid-19 vaccine or the booster, get the shot. They will only enhance your protection.
Another factor that has come into play is finding the proper line of allocating vaccine resources. Dr. Wigdor finds that there should be a balance between helping other countries and also making sure our own citizens are protected.
“As of October 3, the U.S. has donated over 176 million vaccine doses to over 100 countries, which is pretty awesome,” she said. “So I think as long as we continue doing what we can to help others, while still making sure U.S. citizens have access to vaccines, who want to get it, there should be continued availability to offer boosters.”
Is the booster necessary in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic?
Vaccines’ jobs are to train the immune system to fight off infections by producing antibody levels that block the virus from getting inside cells. Over time those levels begin to drop and the booster’s job is to merely jolt that level back up. So, while the booster might not be a necessity, its job is important in providing an extra layer of protection.
“Boosters induce neutralizing antibodies against viruses such as Covid variants of concern, which decrease a vaccinated person’s risk of acquiring and transmitting Covid to others,” said Dr. Jacobson.
Are doctors recommending you get the Covid-19 booster?
The Covid-19 booster is still in the early stages of its roll out, and as guidelines evolve, doctors are telling patients to wait for instructions from the CDC. But many say if approved, they’ll recommend it to anyone who wants it. “I understand that being vaccinated is a personal preference and not everyone feels comfortable getting it or getting a booster,” said Dr. Wigdor. “But I feel that if there is anything we can do to minimize severe infection, there is no reason not to do that.”
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