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Sep 13 2021

A message about COVID-19 boosters from Kimberly A. Shriner, MD, Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control

Kimberly Shriner, MD, Infectious Disease Specialist, Huntington Hospital
Kimberly A. Shriner, MD, Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control

As we continue to move through this summer of the Delta variant, the powerful protection that the COVID vaccines provide is so very apparent. This latest surge shows the ability of these vaccines to decrease the risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death. In fact, these vaccines are performing better than any of us could imagine and are indeed, the best way out of this terrible pandemic.

We continue to urge unvaccinated individuals to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their family, their friends and their community. There has been much discussion around boosters. While the advantage of vaccination against SARSCoV2 is so apparent, we do not yet know the durability of the vaccines. Eight months into widespread vaccination of many of our communities, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines show persistent protection, even in the presence of a highly infectious variant and decreasing antibody levels. For those of us who are vaccinated, the next important question is when and if a booster or additional dose of vaccine is appropriate.

At this time, COVID-19 boosters are not yet authorized for the general population. We do know that some immunosuppressed individuals (solid organ transplant, cancer, uncontrolled HIV, use of immunosuppressive drugs and hematologic malignancies) would benefit from an additional dose of the original vaccine they received to produce a protective response. The CDC has authorized an additional dose of vaccine for this group. To be clear, this is not considered a booster for these individuals, but rather a third dose.

For healthy vaccinated persons, the situation is less clear.

Early data from Israel, the US and the pharmaceutical companies may suggest that an additional dose of the previously used vaccine will enhance serum antibody levels and help us better protect our communities as we face the fall and winter. That said, the human immune system has many pathways of protection that are bolstered in vaccinated individuals, perhaps most importantly, the memory T and B cells that can elicit an appropriate antibody response when faced with SARSCoV2. Currently, the FDA, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the CDC are reviewing the data and will report their recommendations after September 17.

Meanwhile, Huntington will continue to follow robust scientific data and the guidance of these agencies as to the timing and indication for COVID-19 boosters in the general population.

More details to follow as information becomes available.