The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended on Friday, November 19, that all fully vaccinated adults 18 years and older in the United States receive a booster dose of the COVID vaccine, either from Pfizer or by Moderna.
Earlier on Friday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had made the same recommendation. The recommendations are accelerating as a new wave of cases is registering in different parts of the country.
In the United States, there are still 47 million adults who have not received any doses of the COVID vaccine.
Health authorities are imploring people to get vaccinated, as higher immunization leads to higher herd immunity, which weakens viral transmission.
Scientists have already shown that the immunity offered by COVID vaccines decreases over time, and boosters are able to improve immunity.
The following questions and answers clarify doubts about COVID vaccine boosters.
Why would you need a COVID-19 vaccine booster?
It all depends on your state of health, if you work in a risky environment such as a hospital or assisted living home, or if you have a pre-existing condition or a disease that affects your immune system, or if you live with someone in this medical situation. If you are not sure if the disorder you suffer from affects your body’s defense system, talk to your doctor, who will advise you on the best step to take, and if a booster dose would benefit you.
Why is a booster needed? Isn’t it enough to have already been vaccinated?
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is a new virus, which scientists are closely following, investigating its variants, and developing therapeutic and immunization responses. One of the big questions is changes in the genetics of the virus that will make the COVID-19 vaccine seasonal, like the flu. As these are ongoing investigations, as new information emerges, the course of action is decided.
So far, studies show that after getting vaccinated against COVID-19, protection against the virus may decrease over time and be less effective in protecting against the delta variant. Evidence also shows that among healthcare workers and other front-line workers, the effectiveness of the vaccine decreases over time. This decrease in effectiveness probably has to do with the appearance of new variants, such as delta and mu.
That is precisely why the vaccine booster is important: to “remind” the immune system that there is an enemy to which it has to react.
According to health authorities, Who should get the booster dose?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have just issued a recommendation that all adults 18 years and older already vaccinated receive the third booster dose. They emphasize people who:
- Live in long-term care facilities
- Have underlying conditions
- They work in high-risk environments
- They live in high-risk environments
Throughout the more than 18 months of the pandemic, scientific research has shown that many people with weak immune systems do not have the ability to create complete protection when vaccinated against COVID.
Unlike healthy people, in sick people, vaccines do not produce enough protective antibodies after receiving both doses.
This leaves them particularly vulnerable to infection, especially with more contagious variants circulating, such as delta and mu.
What does it mean that a person can “mix and match” when getting the COVID booster vaccine?
This means that the booster dose may not be the same brand that was used for the original immunization. This recommendation generated some confusion since when the vaccines against COVID-19 began to be applied, it had been said that it was better not to mix.
However, scientific research showed that the combination could even elicit a better immune response. In fact, for example in Canada, Germany, Spain and France, different brands were used for the first two doses.
Basically, vaccines work the same way: educating the immune system to recognize the coronavirus and destroy it. Giving him two different doses, with two different formulations, is like showing him two photos of the same virus, but from a different angle, experts say.
It is like helping the immune system to recognize a pathogen in different ways.
Are there any risks? Scientists agree that it is not.
A study by the National Institutes of Health in the United States showed that if people who had received the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine, they obtained a stronger immune response if the booster was from Pfizer or Moderna.
What is the difference between a booster and a third dose?
The vaccines are basically the same, but the term is different depending on who receives it.
The third dose is applied to people in the groups mentioned above, who are fully vaccinated but have already compromised immunity.
The recommendation is that they receive the third dose of the COVID vaccine at least 28 days after the second dose.
The booster vaccine is for healthy people and does not need to be given so close to the second dose, in fact they have been mentioned up to eight months after the person is fully vaccinated.
What are the side effects of the booster shot?
Studies indicate that they are similar to those of the first doses, and include: possible pain at the injection site, and eventually general discomfort and some fever in a few cases. However, here you can read more about the side effects.
Where can I get the COVID-19 booster?
There are clinics throughout the country, each local government has its own website, but at www.vacunas.gov, the federal site, you can find information about vaccination centers in your neighborhood or very close.
You can also call 1-800-232-0233, where you can speak to a person in Spanish.
In some places you will need to make an appointment, but in others you just show up. You will be asked if you have any medical conditions that make you eligible to receive the booster, but you will not have to submit any documentation.
Do I have to bring my vaccination card?
Yes. Every vaccinated person received a card issued by the CDC, where you must have the record and the date of the doses you received. There the date on which you give yourself the reinforcement and the brand will be placed.
Can you change the vaccination criteria?
There may be changes as more studies and scientific evidence appear, which does not invalidate the fact that what has been recommended so far is to end the COVID-19 pandemic.