As COVID-19 reaches its fourth significant spike since March 2020, many vaccinated people are wondering what their next step may be. For many, some of the worries clogging their minds are questions about a possible third booster shot.
Before considering the science of booster shots, it is essential to understand how vaccines generally work. According to Nature, vaccinations typically produce an “initial surge of immune cells churning out antibodies.” Though this increased antibody wave may decrease over time, the vaccination will leave behind small amounts of long-lasting memory cells produced in the bone marrow that remain in the bloodstream fighting against that specific pathogen.
Scientists test the effectiveness of vaccines by searching for the number of antibody levels, also known as titers, left within the body. Over time, the titer levels within the body decrease; however, scientists have yet to determine whether this drop in titer level concerning the COVID-19 vaccine is due to the vaccine itself becoming more ineffective, or if it is the same drop recorded in every other vaccine.
What is possibly becoming more evident over time is at least a slight drop in effectiveness with use of only the initial round of COVID-19 vaccines. Dr. William Gruber, Senior Vice President of Pfizer Vaccine Clinical Research and Development, indicated in mid-September that the level of immunity in each individual does wane over time, saying, “recent US CDC data hints at reduced COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness over time against severe disease and hospitalization in the US.” He then asserted that those who receive the booster vaccine have their titer levels restored and are observed to have longer-lasting high levels of immunity after receiving the booster.
“Has it even been approved?” queried Savannah Warrington ’24. As of September 22, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given clearance to those over the age of 65 and for higher-risk individuals. However, the shot itself is not approved for those in the CA student age range. Despite this, many students consider what the possible recommendation for a third shot means for them.
“I would be the first person in the first line the first second it’s approved for our age group. I wouldn’t think twice,” Savannah commented. Others in the community have a slightly different opinion about for whom these boosters should be.
“I think that people who want the first two doses should receive them before they start handing out [booster] vaccines [to already vaccinated people], but I’m totally [on board] with getting it,” said Diana Daher ’23, a sentiment shared by many scientists, such as Epidemiologist for Infectious Diseases at Doha’s Weill Cornell Medicine, Laith Jamal Abu-Raddad.
“Wasting resources on boosters for those who are already protected against severe diseases does not make too much sense. […] Down the line, probably, we would need to think of it. But, really, we don’t have a strong argument for it right now.”
Only time will tell when it comes to booster shot rollout. But, it is never too early to consider your community’s safety, as well as your own.