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Value of COVID-19 Booster Shots Still Unclear, Huntington Hospital Infectious Disease Expert Says

Published on Monday, September 13, 2021 | 11:59 am
Photo of Huntington Hospital Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control Dr. Kimberly Shriner, pictured in an undated photo provided by the hospital.

The question of whether COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are necessary or effective for the general population remains unanswered, but federal authorities are expected to issue guidance soon, according to Huntington Hospital’s Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control.

“While the advantage of vaccination against SARSCoV2 is so apparent, we do not yet know the durability of the vaccines,” Dr. Kimberly Shriners said in a letter to the community.

“Eight months into widespread vaccination of many of our communities, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines show persistent protection, even in the presence of a highly infectious variant and decreasing antibody levels,” she said.

Officials continued urging those who have not been vaccinated to do so, Shriner said.

“For those of us who are vaccinated, the next important question is when and if a booster or additional dose of vaccine is appropriate,” she said.

The recent proliferation of the potent Delta variant of COVID-19 has highlighted the effectiveness of the vaccines in reducing serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths, she said.  

“In fact, these vaccines are performing better than any of us could imagine and are indeed the best way out of this terrible pandemic.”

Federal, state and local officials cleared the way last month for those with compromised immune systems to receive third doses of the Pfizer or Moderna formulations.

More recently, there has been a great deal of discussion surrounding the possibility of additional doses, or booster shots, for the general population. “For healthy vaccinated persons, the situation is less clear,” Shriner said.

“Early data from Israel, the US and the pharmaceutical companies may suggest that an additional dose of the previously used vaccine will enhance serum antibody levels and help us better protect our communities as we face the fall and winter,” according to the doctor.

“That said, the human immune system has many pathways of protection that are bolstered in vaccinated individuals, perhaps most importantly, the memory T and B cells that can elicit an appropriate antibody response when faced with SARSCoV2.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices are conducting an ongoing review into the issue and were expected to provide recommendations sometime after Friday, she added.

“Meanwhile, Huntington will continue to follow robust scientific data and the guidance of these agencies as to the timing and indication for COVID-19 boosters in the general population,” Shriner said.

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