Confused about whether to get a COVID booster? Here’s what to know

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This article is reprinted with permission NextAvenue.org,

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Chris Carly, a 70-year-old retired nurse living in Clearwater, Fla., worked hard to get a COVID-19 vaccine back in March. She’s no morning person, but wakes up hours earlier than usual for several days to join online appointment sites and eventually snag a spot to get Pfizer PFE,
+6.11%
Vaccination.

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But now Carly says she is “on the fence” about whether to get a third COVID-19 shot and is waiting to talk to her doctor about a booster. His main drawback is that he didn’t see as much data about the booster’s safety and effectiveness as he saw for the first two shots of Pfizer and Moderna mRNA,
+20.57%
vaccines when the US Food and Drug Administration authorized them last December.

In general, doctors say older people have been eager to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, as well as boosters. Around 86% of Americans are 65 and older are now fully vaccinated – meaning they have received two shots from Pfizer or Moderna or one shot from Johnson & Johnson JNJ,
-0.65%
Vaccine – compared to 70% of Americans age 18 and older. And 32% of Americans 65 and older have just received a booster. two month Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that this age group should receive an additional dose six months after the initial vaccination.

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However, many older people may want to talk to their doctor, like Carly, before taking a booster.

“I don’t think it’s vaccine hesitation that’s driving it, I think it’s just confusion,” says Dr. Preeti Malani, chief health officer and infectious disease physician at the University of Michigan. COVID-19 fatigue and the worry of feeling sluggish after a booster can also play a role. To combat these obstacles, doctors try to lay out some key points about getting a booster.

Too Christmas markets from Frankfurt to Budapest welcome holiday season amid COVID surge

go back to square one without the booster

Mark Supiano, professor and chief of geriatrics at the University of Utah, says, “The main message I’m trying to communicate to older patients is that they’re back to square one, and where they were before vaccines. are back there.” He explains that people 65 and older usually have lower antibody levels after vaccination, and levels drop faster,

Low antibody levels may be part of the reason why older people are more likely to have severe COVID-19 breakthrough infections after a thorough vaccination. According to the CDC, about 17,000 fully vaccinated people were hospitalized due to COVID-19 in early October and 67% of them were 65 and older. Even in this age group, of the approximately 6,600 deaths, 86% were due to breakthrough infections.

Data shows boosters are safe and effective

“We know that extra doses are safe,” Malani says. “The drive to get vaccinated probably has more risk than the vaccine itself,” she adds.

Study of dozens of people 65 and older who got boosters pfizer, Modern And johnson and johnson The vaccines, which the FDA reviewed to decide whether to authorize additional doses, had side effects similar to those seen after the first dose—mostly pain, fatigue, and headache at the injection site.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 vaccine has not seen related side effects in thousands of participants. clinical tests who has received booster, Or, says Malani, among the millions of Americans who have received boosters so far.

As far as the effectiveness of COVID-19 boosters is concerned, Supiano notes that we know enough now to act, even though “the evidence base is not as strong as it is for primary vaccines.”

Face masks and distancing are most effective measures to reduce COVID-19 spread, study finds, as experts call for US to expand booster program

Research In Israel, where the booster was approved in July for older adults, lower rates of COVID-19 infection and severe illness were found in people 60 and older who took the extra dose compared to those who didn’t. received those who did not. “I suspect more data will emerge, but we can’t afford to wait [for it],” says Supiano.

5 things to know about the COVID-19 booster

Here’s what we know about the COVID-19 booster:

Experts agree on boosters for older adults. doctors Stayed Critical Some of the CDC’s booster guidance, in particular, recommends that adults under the age of 65 get a booster if they are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 through work. But for people 65 and older, there’s generally strong agreement among doctors that they should get a booster, Malani says.

It’s okay to mix and match vaccines. “The main message is what you can get through,” Supiano says. If you were initially vaccinated by Johnson & Johnson, doctors usually recommend getting a booster from Pfizer or Moderna, he notes. (The CDC recommends people who get a Johnson & Johnson vaccine only get a booster after two months.) But if your first shots were with Pfizer or Moderna, it’s about the safety and effectiveness you get for the booster. Can’t make a huge difference. ,Studies Still going on to solve this question.)

It is the best way to have safe family gatherings. “This year, I’m really hopeful that my family can have a normal holiday season,” Malani says. Getting vaccinated is the best way to make gatherings safe – especially for unvaccinated people getting the first dose. However, as Malani tells her patients that getting a booster takes some motivation, you can only control what you do, not what your family does.

Even when young children are vaccinated, boosters are important. Supiano worries that older adults may feel less urgency to receive a booster because the FDA recently authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children 5 to 11. “It’s not either/or,” he says. “You’re still going to be exposed. If it’s not from one of your own kids, it will be from walking into the grocery store or wherever you are. There’s still enough COVID-19 out there, unfortunately,” Supiano says.

Find a good time, and don’t be late. Malani sympathizes with concerns about feeling “crummy” after the booster. “But it is small compared to getting COVID-19,” she says. She recommends that patients plan to take it easy for a few days after their booster. And she advises not to put it off for too long, with the holidays just around the corner.

Read next: US sees more COVID deaths in 2021 than 2020 even before vaccines are available, as experts warn again that pandemic is not over

Malani says getting a booster can seem daunting because not all of the mass vaccination sites pop up to deliver the initial dose. But you can find sites near you Vaccines.gov, Large pharmacies, including CVS and Walgreens, as well as county health clinics, are offering booster appointments and taking walk-ins.

Carina Stores is a freelance science and health journalist. He has written for CNN Health, Health Affairs, Medium, Nature News, Scientific American, The New York Times and other publications. Carina holds a master’s degree in journalism and a Ph.D. from the NYU Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. in Microbiology from Columbia University. She lives in NYC with her husband, young daughter, and two cats.

This article is reprinted with permission NextAvenue.org, © 2021 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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