COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccine conversations can be difficult to have with differing opinions. Recent changes with masking, extra booster doses and new variants of the COVID-19 virus have led to unknowns and concerns.
In these times of uncertainty, it’s important to remember that the COVID-19 vaccine is your best protection against serious COVID-19, including hospital admission and death. More importantly, your provider is available to have these conversations and help answer questions.
In previous Shine365 blogs, our experts discussed four main questions or concerns that someone could have during COVID-19 vaccine conversations.
Why do I need booster doses?
Research has shown that protection against the virus from the COVID-19 vaccines can wane. For this reason, COVID-19 vaccines may not be as effective against COVID-19 variants. A booster dose is a supplemental dose given to people when the immune response to a primary vaccine series has waned over time. This is similar to why we recommend a tetanus, diphtheria booster every 10 years and the influenza vaccine each year.
Additional research has shown that more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine can improve a person’s response to their initial vaccine series.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides more recommendations on first booster and second booster. First booster is for everyone 12 years and older after completing the primary vaccine series. The second booster is also available for people age 50 years and older, age 12 years and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised and people who got two doses (one primary dose and one booster) of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine. The decision to get a second booster depends on your individual risk for serious COVID-19 and your risk tolerance.
“CDC routinely analyzes data from multiple studies to understand how well COVID-19 vaccines are working,” said Dr. Edward Belongia, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute. “These studies continue to show that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing severe disease from COVID-19, including hospitalization.”
I don’t need the vaccine, I had COVID-19
We know that natural infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, provides substantial protection for at least a few months by generating antibodies and a cell-mediated immune response. Should you rely on this for protection and skip the vaccine if you were previously infected? The answer is a clear ‘no’.
Vaccination has two important benefits for people previously infected: a single dose of vaccine will strongly boost neutralizing antibody levels—these are antibodies that inactivate the virus and higher levels are associated with greater protection. The second benefit comes from a different part of the immune system. Vaccination activates immune T-cells that increase protection against severe illness and against variant strains.
According to the CDC, cases of reinfection with COVID-19 have been reported. Studies show that people who have antibodies from an infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 can improve their level of protection by getting vaccinated.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?
“Research also has shown that vaccination after infection is safe,” Dr. Belongia said.
Hundreds of millions of Americans have received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history. To view the current total number of COVID-19 vaccinations that have been administered in the United States, visit the CDC COVID Data Tracker.
One fear often heard is that the COVID-19 vaccine effects fertility or pregnancy, but this is not true. Current recommendations from CDC, American College of OBGYN, and Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, is that the COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for all pregnant and lactating patients.
When it comes to children, COVID-19 vaccines are continuously being studied, and children 5-11 have been eligible for pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine since November 2021. The pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine reduced the risk of symptomatic COVID-19 in children by 91% during the phase three clinical trial. About 1,500 children received the vaccine in the clinical trial.
Research has also shown the vaccine to be highly effective against death and hospitalization due to COVID-19 in all ages.
CDC covers more myths and facts about the COVID-19 vaccine on their website.
How do I decide if I should get the vaccine?
Have a conversation with your provider and ask any questions you have. Health care providers have done their research to help answer questions. They also may have had the same concerns or reservations as you.
Learn all you can about the COVID-19 vaccine so you can make the most informed decision about getting vaccinated.
If you would like to schedule your vaccine or additional dose with Marshfield Clinic Health System, visit marshfieldclinic.org/CovidVaccine.