4 Ws of the COVID-19 vaccine booster
Do I really need a booster?
Recently I had COVID-19 infection and received an infusion of two monoclonal antibodies. My Dad, who is 89 and has COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asked me what the infusion was supposed to do. My response was that the monoclonal antibodies that I took is covid-specific and that it is activated once it encounters the spike protein on the COVID -19 molecule. Once activated it will cause an immune response and your body will begin to make antibodies faster than normal time-period. His next question was “Can I get some of that?” My answer was “Only is you get COVID.”
Next, he asked me about the COVID vaccine booster: When would it be available and who can get it? A week later, a friend asked me “Do you have to take the booster made by the same company that produced the vaccine that you received?” Let’s tackle each question.
What is vaccine booster? Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have been approved to make a booster. Interestingly, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is not calling this a booster but a third injection of the vaccine. According to CDC, a booster is given when the immune response to a vaccine is known to decrease over time [online at COVID-19 Vaccines for Moderately to Severely Immunocompromised People | CDC]. In the August 26, 2021 issue of the Daily Briefing of the Advisory Board, both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s two-dose vaccine seems to wane over a six to eight month period [ available at Who should get a Covid-19 booster shot? Here’s the full list. (advisory.com)]. According to CDC people can get the third dose of the vaccine 4 weeks or 28 days after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine [online at COVID-19 Vaccines for Moderately to Severely Immunocompromised People | CDC]. This means that this third dose can be given before the immune system of fully vaccinated people who received the two-dose regimen begin to wane.
Who can get the third dose? CDC has recommended that people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised received the third injection. This includes people who
· Have cancer and may be taking chemotherapy
· People who had an organ transplant and are taking immunosuppressant drugs
· People in the advanced stages of HIV or those infected with HIV but not taking treatment
· People who have received stem cell transplant treatment within 2 years or may be taking immunosuppressant drugs
· People who have rare primary immunodeficiency diseases, which are caused by genetic factors
· People actively taking high-dose corticosteroids or immunosuppressant drugs (this may include treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and Addison’s disease to name a few) [online at COVID-19 Vaccines for Moderately to Severely Immunocompromised People | CDC].
At first, I thought this would include all the first line people who received the vaccines first, like healthcare workers, but this is not so. So, can my dad take the third vaccine? Probably not at this time although, he is taking Advair, a steroid. He will need to check with his doctor.
When will the third dose be available? The government will start rolling out the third dose in September of 2021. You will self-attest that you are immunocompromised or taking medication that causes suppression of your immune system. Will you need a letter from your doctor stating this? I do not know.
Which third dose should you take?
You should take the third dose produced by the same company that you received your first two doses. This means that if I was immunocompromised, I would take the third dose of the Pfizer vaccine because I took the two-dose Pfizer vaccine in March. Only Pfizer and Moderna are authorized to provide a third dose in the United States at this time.