It has been more than six months since COVID-19 vaccines started rolling out across the United States. “If you haven’t gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, there is now an abundant supply and still plenty of time to get one,” said Pride PHC Vice-President Andy Cruz.
About half of all Americans are fully vaccinated, and the vaccination numbers need to be significantly higher to even come close to herd immunity. But now, COVID-19 booster shots, similar to a yearly flu shot, will be available to most Americans in late September. Here is what you need to know about these life-saving shots.
Even with a booster you will still need to mask up
If your immune system is weakened by a chronic health condition, and you have received both doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you will are eligible to receive a third dose about eight months after you received your second dose. “Although booster shots for the COVID-19 vaccine are soon to be available, that does not mean you can let your guard down,” said Cruz.
The FDA says people, especially the immunocompromised, will still need to take precautions such as wearing masks indoors, staying six feet apart from others, and avoiding large crowds. Additionally, all family members and other close contacts should be fully vaccinated to protect the immunocompromised, even if they are receiving a COVID-19 booster.
Efficacy wanes as time goes on
If you have received both shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, health experts have determined that the efficacy of the shots decreases over time, and after eight months, you reach the point where a booster is needed. The New York Daily News cited Dr. Anthony Fauci who says the Pfizer vaccine starts out about 90 percent effective against COVID, and then goes down to about 84 percent several months later. “The same is expected with the Moderna vaccine,” said Cruz. “If you have taken the Johnson and Johnson vaccine guidance has not yet been introduced about a booster for that vaccine as of yet.”
Variants make the boosters a necessity
It has already been proven that COVID-19 vaccines lose their protective powers against severe forms of the disease over time, and that reality is especially the case with the variants of COVID-19 such as Delta. “This form of the disease is much more contagious and can evade vaccine efficacy than the original COVID-19 virus,” said Cruz.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the vaccine needs a booster because after less than a year the vaccines are not as effective, unlike with other diseases such as measles where one shot is all that is needed to protect a person for their entire life.
Johnson and Johnson vaccine recipients need to wait
We all know there was a huge rush to receive a coronavirus vaccine as soon as they became available, and more of the same is happening with the boosters. “However, at first, only those who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be eligible for a booster,” said Cruz.
National Public Radio says people who got the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine will also likely need an additional shot to prolong it’s effectiveness against the coronavirus and severe symptoms, but booster approval will take longer. Research is still being done to determine when a booster is needed for that vaccine, and when it is finished the FDA will release a plan and timeline for those who received that vaccine.
It is becoming clearer that the coronavirus pandemic will become what is known as an endemic, with some form of the virus circulating around for years to come much like the flu. As we learn more about the virus over time, medical experts say that we should be able to protect everybody, young and old, male and female, immunocompromised or not immunocompromised, with the best form of vaccines and boosters that research can develop. When they become available and are approved for use, we believe that your best course of action for protection will be to get each shot.