The last two years have been seemingly never-ending with regard to the
Covid-19 pandemic. Just as it started to look like we were making a turn for the better with widely available vaccines and the opportunity to get a booster shot, the Omicron variant came out to play and seemingly started spreading like wildfire. And now, just as you were getting ready to make a return to the office or re-plan that long postponed vacation, it’s starting to feel like March 2020 again, only this time we have vaccines but vaccinated people are getting breakthrough infections anyway. What gives?!
If you thought you might be one (or two) and done with your first vaccine dose series of the Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, we don’t blame you for feeling frustrated about needing another one so soon.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is surging everyone who’s eligible to get a booster shot. This is because the boosters are designed to assist the protection given in the original series you received, not only reducing your chances of being infected with Covid at all, but to also cut down on your chances of experiencing severe symptoms and requiring hospitalization if you do come down with the virus.
While the latest headlines around breakthrough infections may prove to be more than a little defeating, experts say there is hope, especially if you take recommended measures to protect yourself and those around you.
Here’s what you need to know about getting boosted when it comes to protecting yourself against Omicron.
How does the Covid-19 booster work?
“Vaccines work to create an immune response within our body so that it is ready to fight the next exposure to a disease,” explains Suneet Singh, MD, an emergency room physician and medical director of CareHive Health in Austin, Texas. “In essence, vaccines help train the body to fight an infection, and to help develop a lasting immune response, some vaccines require [additional] doses, [or boosters], down the road from their initial administration.”
Vaccine boosters help to ramp up the antibody levels once again, and what experts have seen while researching the different vaccines and immune responses is that the levels start to decrease somewhere at the five- to six-month mark after receiving your original dose series, Dr. Singh continues.
“This is why the boosters are recommended at [those points in time],” he says. “By receiving a Covid vaccine booster, patients are successfully receiving protective immunity against the Omicron variant.”
Does that mean the booster protects against Omicron?
With how many people, including many vaccinated individuals, are becoming infected lately, you may suspect that the vaccines won’t protect you at all from this new variant. That’s not the case, says Dr. Singh.
“The Covid vaccines from all manufacturers has been proven to provide immunity against Covid and each of the variants that we have encountered since the start of the pandemic,” he says. “[However,] similar to other vaccines and diseases, as time goes by, the circulating antibody levels will start to drop,” hence the need for a booster to prevent more breakthrough infections.
So should I still get the booster?
The answer here is a resounding yes, says Dr. Singh. Once again, getting vaccinated and boosted is the best line of defense in protecting against Covid altogether, and reducing your chances of severe symptoms and hospitalizations if you do get a breakthrough infection. The odds of severe illness are much less favorable if you’re not vaccinated, so if you still haven’t rolled up your sleeve, make your appointment to get your vaccine today.
So yes, the idea of getting sick when you’re vaxxed sucks, but rest assured knowing you’re likely not going to feel as crappy as you otherwise might if you weren’t vaccinated and boosted.