More and more people are getting Covid vaccine booster shots despite the booster not being mandatory. The importance of Covid vaccine booster shots in the fight against the pandemic is quite significant, and we’ll be discussing the reasons why below.
Though many people would rather avoid getting additional injections beyond the two initial doses of the Covid vaccine, booster shots are something we should all be seriously considering.
As noted in Scientific American’s recent article Boosters Can Help End The Covid Pandemic, the need for booster shots doesn’t mean the original vaccines aren’t working. The effectiveness of Covid vaccine booster shots simply shows that our immune systems rely on repeated, well-timed exposure to vaccinations to produce a longer-lasting foundation for protection. Booster shots are also crucial for bolstering our immune systems against the variants of the virus.
What Exactly is a Booster Vaccine?
Though many communities remain cautiously optimistic that the worst of the pandemic may be behind us, the reality is there is a lot of work to do before we’re out of the woods.
The Covid-19 booster vaccine is the 3rd dose of the vaccine after a person has completed the initial two-dose vaccine series for the pandemic. Booster shots offer an additional dose of the vaccine given after the protection offered by the additional shots has begun to decrease.
Essentially, a booster vaccine is a “top-up” of the antibody-mediated immune response to the vaccines you initially received against the virus.
While all vaccines trigger immunity, how long this immunity lasts depends on various factors. One of those factors is how quickly the virus replicates and mutates, creating new variants.
As new variants of the Covid-19 virus continue to appear across the globe, the importance of Covid vaccine booster shots continues to be emphasized. According to an Associate Professor of Medicine for the Infectious Diseases Division at Emory University School of Medicine, Covid vaccine booster shots could even be the key to breakthroughs that help to ensure longer-term immunity in the future.
Who Needs Covid Vaccine Booster Shots the Most?
Initially, booster shots were recommended for those who needed additional protection against the Covid virus. The Covid vaccine booster shots were intended to improve the response of immunocompromised individuals to their initial vaccination. However, the FDA recently expanded the EUA of the Covid vaccine in 2021 to include booster shots for almost everyone.
Now, the CDC advises administering these booster shots to anyone who is:
- 18 or older and received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (both doses) at least 2 months ago
- 18 or older and received the Moderna vaccine (both doses) at least 6 months ago
- 16 or older and received the Pfizer vaccine (both doses) at least 6 months ago
If you’re eligible for a booster but aren’t convinced you should have another dose, the best thing you can do is speak to your doctor. For the most part, everyone is advised to get a booster shot. However, your doctor may be able to conduct an antibody test to demonstrate your risk level.
Do Booster Shots Help Prevent the Spread of Covid-19?
Booster shots play an important role in our protection against the Covid-19 virus. According to Dr. Francis Collins, while variants such as the Delta mutation have played a role in the resurgence of the Covid infection, waning immunity is an important factor as well.
A large study into Covid vaccinations on US veterans found that for all three of the approved options in the US, protection waned significantly for people who had been vaccinated for more than 6 months. Protection levels decreased from 87.9% to 48.1%.
In an Israeli study, booster shots also drove down severe cases of Covid-19 deaths, and reduced infections in middle-aged, and senior citizens. The research also revealed boosters prevented new infections for people aged 16 to 29.
During a period in fall 2021 when infections in Israel were surging, adults under the age of 50 who received a third shot of Pfizer were 13 times less likely to get a positive test than vaccinated peers who did not receive a booster. Citizens over the age of 50 who got a booster shot were about 10 times less likely to test positive than their “unboosted” peers.
Are Booster Shots the Key to Ending the Pandemic?
It’s difficult to say at present whether a booster vaccine will eliminate the Covid pandemic completely. However, further research into the use of vaccines to fight against this virus will be essential to building long-term immunity.
The research in Israel, and emerging studies in other parts of the world, suggest that an extra dose of the vaccination could make a powerful difference. If widely used, boosters could slow viral transmission, stave off additional waves of serious illness, and even help prevent deaths.
Pfizer and BioNTech have already highlighted the importance of booster vaccinations in protecting citizens against the evolving pandemic. The two companies acknowledged two doses of their vaccine may not be enough to “protect against infection with the Omicron variant.”
Pfizer further revealed laboratory tests showing three doses of the Covid-19 vaccine does offer better protection against Omicron. Initial observations out of Israel show similar results.
Why Everyone Should Consider Getting a Booster
Everyone’s individual risk and health profile is different, which is why some people assume they may not need the booster as much as others. The Covid-19 vaccination series on its own has already been proven to elicit robust antibody protection against the pandemic in most people. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be indefinitely protected from the vaccine.
Generally speaking, anyone eligible for an additional dose of the vaccine should strongly consider getting their booster. A booster shot is a low-risk, high-reward choice for those who want to stay as thoroughly defended as possible.
Aside from delivering better protection for your immune system, a booster shot also ensures you can better defend the people around you. During the colder months when people might want to spend more time indoors with loved ones, a booster shot offers an extra layer of protection to prevent the spread of the virus to people who are more vulnerable.
In some parts of the world, it will also be essential to get a booster shot if you wish to travel or visit various events. In the UK, for instance, admittance to concerts and opportunities to travel are reliant on individuals holding a full “vaccine passport”, which will include booster shots.
Which Booster Shot Should You Get?
Perhaps the biggest question people should be asking right now isn’t whether they should get the booster, but which booster vaccine they should consider.
Anyone who is eligible for a booster shot of the vaccine can get a dose of any of the three authorized vaccines, regardless of the vaccine they initially received.
The correct vaccine for your needs will depend on your specific situation. Speaking to your doctor will allow you to make a more informed choice. However, most experts recommend women younger than 50 should consider an mRNA booster from Moderna or Pfizer, as the J&J vaccine can rarely lead to blood clotting issues in this demographic.
In a similar vein, mRNA vaccines are associated with higher rates of inflammation in the heart (myocarditis) for younger men, but these outcomes are very rare.
Continue to Protect Yourself against Covid-19
Overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic is a process that requires commitment, discipline, and consistency from all of us. The booster may not be something you look forward to, but it’s another important factor in moving towards a healthy, safe, and more normal way of life.
In addition to getting your booster vaccine, remember that it’s also important to continue testing yourself for Covid at home, so you can protect yourself and your loved ones in the long term.
Since many people don’t experience symptoms of Covid, regularly taking quick at-home Covid tests is pertinent. The portable HealthPod Covid test is a rapid at-home Covid testing device that will help ensure you can stay safe.