2020 bought us Covid-19 and fear along with it. But as we reach mid-2021, there is hope that the pandemic can be controlled by none other than the V-word, Vaccines.
What Are Boosters? Do We Now Need Them?
When the first roll-out began, it was first administered to the health workers to give protection to first-line workers. Now, anyone older than 12 years can receive their shots and it is seen that almost 60% of the US population is vaccinated, and anti-vaxxers would maybe prevent 100% results.
The results of the vaccine have been good too. Among the three vaccines available in the US- Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson& Johnson, people could choose whichever they wanted based on their own research. And now the US is slowly moving towards mask-free freedom. All because of the vaccines. The results are acutely seen by the difference in cases seen among sparsely-vaccinated countries like India and the highly-vaccinated US.
As we crawl towards the pre-pandemic world, with hopes on vaccines, researchers and health officials have cautioned on the duration of protection the vaccines can provide. We are already aware of tetanus-toxoid vaccines recommended every ten years; it’s called a booster dose.
It is usually recommended as boosters as the immunity in our body could wane slowly. The boosters reinvigorate the immunity system and remind it of the threat that could attack it. Dr William Moss, professor and executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, confirms this.
The current vaccine is in active research, and the immunity it offers remains unknown. Currently, it is believed that the vaccine offers immunity for at least six months.
The coronavirus also regularly mutates, which increases its virulence, which might escape the immunity offered by the vaccines. All these facts raise the questions like “When to introduce the booster doses?”, “What is the period of waiting between the original dose and the booster?”
Along these lines, the three major vaccine providers have already started trials on the booster doses confirmed by the Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told Axios during a virtual event.
In the case of Covid-19 vaccines, Dr Moss brings out a problem unique to the current situation. While typical boosters utilize the same immunizations, as they only remind the immunity, Boosters of Covid-19 could require different immunization altogether.
The Website of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that as of now, no boosters are recommended. Still, US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Americans should be prepared for boosters in the near future.
But when is that near future? Could it be within this year itself? Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said at a Washington Post Live event, “We may not need it for quite a while.”.
And the scientific community at large agrees with this thread. Scientists are largely hesitant only because of the incomplete data. According to the research, Bourla believes that boosters currently under trials by Pfizer may be needed in between 8 to 12 months, but he still waits for more data which might become available in two more months.
Though opinions on the time to start boosters and their type differ among health officials, researchers and scientists, all agree upon one thing- Boosters are needed. Because booster could give future protection to any variants that may emerge, they could also offer protection from flu which usually rear their head every year.
Recently, due to mistakes or availability, mixed doses of the vaccine were administered in the UK population. On observation, data emerged which showed that though the side-effects were more prevalent- like mild fever, fatigue – their duration was short with no other side effects.
This research was reported in The Lancet medical journal. This research could also be factored in when deciding the future of boosters, showing that maybe different immunization in the booster dose could offer better immunity. But the decision rests on the US Food and Drug Administration and the CDC which also depends on the research data.