Following recent FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, U.S. health officials now recommend receiving a COVID booster shot this September. According to plans made by the White House COVID-19 Response Team, all adults who have received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine will be eligible for an additional shot eight months from their second dose.
“These booster shots are free,” said President Biden in an address encouraging all adults to get their booster. “It will be easy. Just show your vaccination card, get a booster. […] It will make you safer and for longer. And it will help us end the pandemic faster.”
The announcement has raised many questions about a third jab, leaving many to ask, “Do I need a COVID booster shot?” Here are seven of the most common questions asked about the COVID booster shot.
#1 Why Do I Need a COVID Booster Shot?
The news of a third round of vaccines has come as a surprise to many. The announcement of a COVID booster shot has led many to wonder why it’s needed in the first place. So, why do you need a COVID booster shot, and what is the evidence to support their efficacy?
For months now, federal health officials have seen a trend among the vaccinated: vaccine effectiveness decreases significantly over time. “The data consistently demonstrate a reduction of vaccine effectiveness against infection over time,” said Dr. Rochell Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a White House briefing last week.
“the protection against infection provided from 10 days after a third dose (Pfizer) was four times higher than after two doses.”
The evidence presented at the briefing consisted of numerous recent studies that have been focused on examining vaccine efficacy over time. One major study conducted in Israel found that “the protection against infection provided from 10 days after a third dose (Pfizer) was four times higher than after two doses.”
What’s most important about these studies is that while they do show a decreased effectiveness over time, they do not show any major increases in severe COVID-19 disease, hospitalization, or death among fully vaccinated people.
#2 If I Need a Booster Shot, Am I No Longer Protected from COVID?
The short answer? No. If you are fully vaccinated, there is no evidence to suggest that you are at risk of getting seriously ill. Fully vaccinated individuals still have “a high degree of protection against the worst outcomes of COVID-19,” according to health officials.
While breakthrough cases can and do occur, they rarely result in serious illness or death. The justification for the COVID booster shot is to prevent future COVID-related illnesses and deaths as a result of new variants and reduced vaccine protection.
“We are concerned that the current strong protection against severe infection, hospitalization, and death could decrease in the months ahead, especially among those who are at higher risk or who were vaccinated earlier,” Walensky said. A COVID booster shot, she said, would “maximize vaccine-induced protection.”
#3 Are There Any Side Effects of COVID Booster Shots?
There have only been a few countries that have offered a COVID booster shot. This means that information about potential risks and side effects is still unknown. However, as more booster shots are administered, data is emerging that suggests the third shot is both safe and effective.
“So far, reactions reported after the third mRNA dose were similar to that of the two-dose series: fatigue and pain at the injection site were the most commonly reported side effects, and overall, most symptoms were mild to moderate,” the CDC says.
One survey on vaccinated individuals in Israel found that 88 percent of Pfizer vaccine recipients said that after the third dose, they felt “similar or better” than how they felt after the second dose.
Currently, all evidence suggests that a third round of mRNA vaccines mirrors side effects from the normal, two-dose regimen.
4# Who Needs a Booster Shot?
At this time, the COVID booster shot is recommended for individuals who received either the Moderna or Pfizer mRNA vaccine. With both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, experts are seeing a decline in overall protection around the six-to-eight month mark. Experts say that most breakthrough infections remain mild. The recommendation is being pushed to prevent mild cases from becoming severe and to limit the number of variants.
#5 How Long After My 2nd Dose Do I Need a COVID Booster Shot?
Starting on September 20, 2021, officials recommend that any adult who has received both doses of Moderna or Pfizer get their COVID booster shot. The booster should be received eight months after their second dose.
This means individuals who received their second dose in mid-January will be eligible to receive their COVID booster shot immediately. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says this style of rollout will ensure priority is given to those in high-risk groups.
“The plan ensures that people who were fully vaccinated earliest in the vaccination program will be eligible for a booster first. This includes our most vulnerable populations, like our health care providers, nursing home residents, and other seniors,” Murthy said.
This plan hinges on the U.S. meeting its September 20 deadline, but officials are confident they will be able to follow through.
“Giving out a third booster should go more smoothly than the initial bumpy vaccine rollout,” says Claire Hannan, head of the Association of Immunization Managers. She continued, “since the vaccine supply is bigger now and lessons have been learned about how to distribute it quickly.”
#6 What if I Got the Johnson and Johnson Vaccine?
Perhaps one of the most asked questions regarding the COVID booster shot is, “what if I got the Johnson and Johnson vaccine?” Current recommendations for a COVID booster shot are for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines but excludes the single-dose J&J vaccine.
So, do vaccinated individuals who received the J&J jab need a COVID booster shot? The answer is yes, probably at some point. However, health officials are still collecting data on when and what that booster shot should look like.
The reason behind the delay is due, in part, to the fact that the original J&J rollout didn’t begin until March, several months after Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations began. Since the J&J shot is made differently and went through a temporary pause, there is simply more data available about how the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines work overtime.
That said, there is still some relevant data that suggests the J&J vaccine holds up against both time and the delta variant. Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says, “I don’t think there’s any signal that the J&J vaccine is failing at its primary task.”
One major study on the J&J vaccine was conducted on health care workers in South Africa. It found that the single-dose vaccine remained 71% effective against hospitalization from the variant. Similarly, the J&J vaccine was between 91% and 96% effective against death. The study also noted that the overwhelming majority of breakthrough cases in fully vaccinated people were mild.
#7 Can I Mix and Match My Booster Shots?
This question is starting to be asked by many following the news of a potential COVID booster shot. This has become especially popular following recent evidence about the Moderna Vaccine. A recent study found that the Moderna vaccine may be more effective against the delta variant. These findings have led some to wonder whether switching from Pfizer to Moderna may be a good idea.
The CDC recommends that people receive a third dose of the same vaccine they have already received. For people who are unsure as to what vaccine they received, either dose may be administered.
While the notion of a COVID booster shot may be a bit confusing, they are a safe, effective way to help bolster your immunity against COVID-19. Staying up to date on current CDC and federal recommendations is a great way to keep yourself safe.
Are You Planning on Getting Your COVID Booster Shot?
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