Opinion by Richard Sternberg M.D.
Boosters will provide additional protection
Raise your hand if you are as confused as I have been digesting information about COVID-19 booster shots that has come out in the last month. Every day there seems to be something new. As a friend of mine pointed out to me, the media is so desperate for something to publish that they have been writing about the arguments that have led up to the current recommendations. The following is from a CDC release from Friday, Sept. 24.
“CDC recommends that the following groups should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after completing their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series (i.e., The first two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine).
One: people age 65 years and older
Two: residents 18 years and older in long-term care settings
Three: people age 50 to 64 years with underlying medical conditions.
CDC also recommends that the following groups may receive a booster of Pfizer- BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after completing their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series based on their
individual benefits and risks.
One:people aged 18 to 49 years with underlying medical conditions.
Two: people age 18 to 64 years at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupation or institutional setting. These recommendations only apply to people who previously received a Pfizer-BioNTech primary series.
People can talk to their healthcare provider about whether getting a Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot is appropriate for them.”
I strongly recommend you go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and look it up for yourself. If the homepage doesn’t include this completely, there should be a hyperlink; click on the initial paragraph that discusses recommendations. It also includes supporting information
The release goes on to define those it considers at increased risk. This includes frontline essential workers and healthcare workers as previously detailed, including first responders, educational staff, food and agricultural workers, correction workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, public transit workers, and grocery store workers.
It is important to note that if you received one of the other vaccines you are neither recommended nor urged to get boosters yet. This is because the other vaccines available in the United States have not been fully tested. Personally, I am very comfortable that the Moderna and J&J vaccines will be approved. Interestingly three weeks ago if you were very high risk, such as immunocompromised, you could get any of the vaccines as a booster.
I recognize there’s been a lot of noise about getting boosters. There is still controversy on who should get them. I noted that some of the controversy is that some of the scientists on the panels making recommendations feel that the vaccine should be used for those people who haven’t gotten them yet. I think they are being very naïve. In the United States those who are eligible who haven’t gotten them have not wanted to get the vaccine. Anybody who wanted should have been able to get it by now and certainly the massive amounts of marketing to this effect probably only missed reaching a small number of people in the country.
Just as I was comfortable with getting the initial vaccine and felt it was safe and protective, I am comfortable and desirous of getting the booster shot. I have received one. This still does not prevent one from contracting COVID-19, but it certainly helps in preventing serious symptoms. Unfortunately, the immune system can only work to get rid of foreign agents once they’ve been exposed to it. They have to recognize them first. They can’t stop it at the border, i.e., the nose and mouth. This means there’s a small period of time one can be infected and transmit a viral load to somebody at risk even though you can prevent symptoms. And right now, children are risk because they’re unable to be vaccinated.
Bottom line, get a booster as soon as you’re eligible to get one. Then watch for recommendations on repeat boosters. Based on the studies so far, immunity seems to wane with time. This virus could end up like the flu which requires annual (or even more frequent) boosters.