COVID-19 booster shots are set to be authorized for the general public. But why are health officials changing their advisories on booster shots and what does this mean for you?
To help you understand the news behind boosters, we’ve written up a brief summary of why, whens, and wheres!
Why Are COVID-19 Booster Shots Necessary?
Some diseases will infect us once and grant immunity for life. Others will give immunity for a shorter amount time (e.g. 1-10 years). This same concept applies to the vaccines that we get. For example, a measles vaccine will last for your life. Conversely, the flu shot gets updated on a yearly basis.
How long immunity lasts from a vaccine will depend on the antibodies that are made by your body. In the days following a vaccine, your body is full of antibodies specific to the vaccine.
After a while, these antibody levels start to drop. While the number doesn't completely drop to zero, this can result in a scenario where our bodies mount a lower immune response to the pathogen.
Usually, breakthrough cases are not because the body has lost immunity. It is because the body mounts a lower immune response to the pathogen.
Additionally, the pathogen can mutate into variants that are different enough so the antibodies no longer recognize it. If this happens, the body can still have an immune response but it will just be a lower level.
With new data coming out on COVID-19 and the vaccines, health officials have stated that “protection against [COVID-19] begins to decrease over time,” and that “current protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death could diminish in the months ahead.”
When Will The COVID-19 Booster Shots Be Available?
Currently, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), along with the top public health experts, confirmed that COVID-19 booster shots will be made available to all Americans who received Pfizer or Moderna vaccines within the coming months.
If you have a moderately or severely compromised immune system, you may be eligible for a third shot now.
For those who have moderately to severely compromised immune systems, the CDC now recommends an additional dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least 28 days after their second dose; this dose will not act as a booster, but will instead be given to insure that immunocompromised individuals are able to build up the same level of immunity as those who do not have compromised immune systems. This third dose does not act as a booster, but instead allows for people with compromised immune systems to build the same level of immunity as healthy individuals.
For the general public, booster vaccines will be made available starting the week of September 20, 2021, and individuals will be eligible for a booster shot eight months after their second dose. While the dates individuals can get their boosters will vary, the majority of Americans will be eligible throughout the fall and winter months.
Where Can I Receive the COVID-19 Booster Shots?
Boosters will be made available both at government-run sites and at pharmacies—essentially at the same places Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were available. If you are immunocompromised and it has been at least 28 days since your last dose, you are able to visit vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations offering an additional dose near you.
Does this apply to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?
While there are currently no plans in place for Johnson & Johnson booster shots, people who were vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are also expected to need a booster shot as well. With more data and testing on Johnson & Johnson incoming, officials expect to release information about this in the near future.
Does this mean I am unprotected 8 months after receiving my vaccine?
No, you are not completely unprotected. Just by being vaccinated, you are greatly decreasing your chances of have moderate to severe symptoms of COVID-19.
However, your risk of a COVID-19 infection does increase around the 8 month mark. Due to this, it is extremely important to continue with the tried and true methods to stop the spread of the virus.
We need to continue social distancing, avoid large indoor crowds, wash your hands often and wear a well fitted, lab-tested face mask.
In the Meantime
The CDC and HHS “will continue to ramp up efforts to increase vaccinations here at home and to ensure people have accurate information about vaccines from trusted sources.”
With protection against the virus slowly waning over time, it’s important to mask up and protect yourself and those around you from the spread of COVID-19, especially in the weeks or months leading up to booster shot eligibility.
For many Americans, that time period will also correspond with flu season, and wearing a mask that efficiently filters out microbes and particles will offer protection against both illnesses.
If you have any questions, feel free to let us know!