Why You’ll Need to Get COVID-19 Boosters Again and Again

SIn order to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, many very effective vaccines have been developed in an extraordinary speed. During the phase 3 clinical trials, mRNA vaccines had vaccine efficacy of 94–95% in preventing symptomatic infections. Real-world evidence proved that the mRNA vaccinations were effective against infections at a rate of 90% after the rollout. There were also variants. The ability of vaccines for transmission and infection to stop the spread of disease has been challenged by every new wave of variants. This immune-evasive variety is also decreasing the effectiveness and safety of two doses each of mRNA vaccinations that were used to prevent hospitalizations and deaths. Omicron-derived variants made it less likely that vaccine-mediated immunity would work. These data make people wonder if vaccines are worth the effort if they don’t prevent symptoms and last no longer. Well, to expect robust protection from just the primary series of any vaccines is unreasonable—and was always likely to be—but somehow society has placed too high a bar on what is considered an acceptable number of doses for COVID-19 vaccines. Instead, we need to understand that we’re going to be getting boosters in the foreseeable future, and to appreciate their benefits.

Multiple doses are required for vaccines that protect against infectious diseases. Many of our childhood vaccines require multiple doses—5 doses for (diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis), 4 doses (Haemophilus influenza type b, pneumococcal conjugate, inactivated poliovirus), or 3 doses (hepatitis B) are all commonly given before the age of 18 years. To achieve immunity, these doses must be taken. These vaccines must be re-vaccinated at regular intervals. All ages should receive an annual dose of the influenza vaccine. Yet, people don’t complain about having to get their 60th dose of the influenza vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines need to be looked at in the same light.

Why do we need booster doses? Primary series vaccines activate lymphocytes which are white blood cells that recognize specific characteristics of the pathogen and grow in number to be instructed to eradicate it. These cells usually disappear within a short time. A small number of them are preserved by the body so that they can be used again in the future. These “memory cells” are responsible for long-lasting immunity against a given pathogen. These memory lymphocytes are stimulated by boosters. They grow rapidly and become more efficient defenders. The booster will also look for cells with the ability to secrete antibodies which are better at inhibiting and binding viruses.

The primary series can be thought of as the high school for lymphocytes, where naïve cells receive basic instructions to learn about the pathogen. The boosters act as a college, where the lymphocytes receive further education to help them become better and more mature to combat future infections. These college graduates may need to be refreshed with booster doses later in their lives. For all vaccines, this is true. Booster dosages are intended to educate the immune system and prevent serious diseases.

For the same reasons as COVID-19, vaccines need to be given booster doses. For severe diseases to be prevented, it is important to increase, maintain and improve the T and/or B cell response. People who have received the first series of vaccines are able to benefit from boosters by preventing death and hospitalization. The U.S. found that people over 50 had a higher chance of being infected with COVID-19 than those who were given a booster. During the Omicron-predominant period, the booster dose provided protection from hospitalization even in previously infected people, whether older (>65 years of age) or younger (<65 years of age). Children and teenagers found that a secondary series (2 doses) of vaccines was not as effective at preventing COVID-19 associated emergency room visits and urgent care encounters in the Omicron wave than the Delta period. The time between primary vaccinations also affects immunity. No significant protection was detected more than five months after a 2nd vaccine dose among adolescents aged 16–17 years. A third booster dose increased vaccine effectiveness by 81% for this age group. The booster dose has been shown to be beneficial in a wide range of age group studies.

Are booster vaccines possible? Absolutely. The need for improved boosters is urgent. They must be more reliable, effective against new variants, prevent infection, and block transmission. In the Omicron period, for example, booster-induced immunity protection fades within 6 to 12 months. It is necessary to develop vaccine strategies that offer more long-lasting protection. Now, boosters are being created to match Omicron variant BA.5, which will provide greater protection than those based on the original strain. Due to the rapid mutating nature SARS-CoV-2 we’ll need boosters in the future that provide protection against both the current and future versions of this virus.

You should look into boosters to fight against the many variants of SARS CoV-2, both now and in future. Also, you need to consider other coronaviruses. Numerous times have coronaviruses made the leap from animals to humans, resulting in pandemics. Future pandemics can be prevented by vaccines that are broad-based effective against many coronaviruses. Future boosters, which should be administered as nasal spray vaccines, are needed to protect the mucosa. They can reduce infection at the point of entry and decrease long-term COVID risks. To provide the needed immune protection, booster strategies must be easier to implement worldwide. They should also have higher uptake and acceptance rates. We can get closer to this goal by using an over-the-counter nasal spray boost.

Industry and researchers are working tirelessly to develop next-generation vaccines. These vaccines have already saved over 14 million lives in the wake of the pandemic. Take the current booster doses to ensure that your immune system remains up to date and protects against COVID-19. We can also prevent the huge loss of lives last winter, when more than 300,000. Americans died from the disease.

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