Haims: To booster shot or not
While researchers across the globe are not all in agreement on whether to roll out booster shots for the population at large, they are for the most part in agreement that booster shots serve a valuable purpose. Booster shots are proving to be effective in protecting people from hospitalization and death.
There is a distinction between COVID-19 vaccines’ effectiveness in minimizing acquiring the virus, hospitalization and death. Much of the population incorrectly believes that the vaccine’s purpose is to ensure that they do not get the virus. No vaccine is 100% effective at preventing infection, and the COVID-19 vaccines are no different.
What vaccines do
Regardless of type, vaccines familiarize our immune systems with an invading pathogen (virus) so that our bodies will learn to recognize it and stimulate the production of antibodies when the pathogen is presented at a later time.
When we receive a vaccine, our immune system produces antibodies throughout our blood. At a later time, when our immune system is presented with the specific invading pathogen the vaccine was designed for, antibodies bind to the invading pathogen (virus) and assist in blocking or neutralizing the pathogen’s effects.
Not only do vaccines assist in blocking the pathogen from infecting our cells by promoting the development of antibodies, but vaccines also promote the development of a secondary line of defense that assists in killing cells that have become infected. This secondary line of defense is accomplished by the production of T cells (white blood cells). While antibodies work on keeping a pathogen from invading a cell, sometimes pathogens do get through and infect cells. T cells find and kill infected cells that antibodies have failed to eliminate.
When a vaccine is successfully distributed across a population, viruses can be eliminated. For example, throughout its existence, it is estimated that the smallpox virus had killed hundreds of millions of people across the planet. Through global efforts of vaccination, the virus was eliminated in the late 1970s.
Vaccines do not protect forever
It is not known how long a vaccine can protect a person against acquiring a virus. In part, this is due to the nature of viruses — they mutate, evolve and learn how to evade protective measures.
Protection from a virus is not just reliant on a vaccine. Viral protection is also a factor that involves the host. A change in either can erode one’s ability for protection.
For the most part, viral protection relies on our immune system and its ability to expediently recognize a pathogen that the body has previously encountered and to initiate an effective immune response. This is called immunologic memory, and it is unique to each and every one of us.
As is pertains to the COVID-19 virus, there is no hard scientific evidence of how long immunity will last. While it is generally accepted that the vaccine efficacy wanes over time, research indicates that the vaccine is proving to be effective up to seven months after immunization. This is why, given current data, it is suggested that people should get a booster shot.
Across the globe, scientific research has proven that all of the COVID-19 vaccines have proven to offer great amounts of protection, reduce risk of severe illness, hospitalization and even death.
Earlier this month, the Washington State Department of Health provided a report on hospitalizations, and deaths by vaccination status within the state. The report detailed that unvaccinated people between the ages of 5 and 65 are five times more likely to get COVID-19 compared with fully vaccinated. Further, the report stated that depending upon age, people are between 11 and 17 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 compared with fully vaccinated
In November, the Texas Department of State Health Services provided data that also confirmed that vaccines “had a strong protective effect on infections and deaths among people of all ages.” The report states that, “From September 4 through October 1, 2021:
- Unvaccinated people were 13 times more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people.
- Unvaccinated people were 20 times more likely to experience COVID-19-associated death than fully vaccinated people.“
Although COVID-19 vaccines work well at reducing infection and mitigate hospitalizations and death, they cannot guarantee full protection. The choice to vaccinate is personal. For those who have chosen to vaccinate, a continued commitment to protect yourself will lower your risk of infection, severe illness and death.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and available to answer questions. His contact information is VisitingAngels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.