Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 11/02/2021 --National healthcare leaders recently called for booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for some individuals. That could create some concern that the vaccine isn't doing its job.
"Not at all," said Kristin Dascomb, MD, an Infectious Diseases physician and the medical director for Employee Health at Intermountain Healthcare. "We have full confidence that the vaccines work. If you look at the data, you'll see that people who are vaccinated are significantly less likely to develop severe disease, be hospitalized, or die."
Dr. Dascomb explained that according to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines are working well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant. However, public health experts are starting to see reduced protection, especially among certain populations, against mild and moderate disease. A booster dose can help increase the immune response again to protect against COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccines are more important than ever to prevent serious illness and reduce COVID-19 in our communities. For specific populations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently recommended a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and a third dose of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Research has shown that young and healthy people have excellent immunity months after vaccination. That's why only certain groups are eligible for a booster dose right now.
Johnson & Johnson booster doses are recommended for people who were vaccinated at least two months ago and who are ages 18 and older.
Pfizer and Moderna booster doses are recommended for people who were vaccinated at least six months ago and who are:
- Age 65 and older
- Adults who live in close-contact settings, such as long-term care facilities
- Age 50 and over with underlying medical conditions, or
- Adults age 18-49 with underlying medical conditions who may choose to receive a booster dose after considering individual risks and benefits. People in this group may want to discuss the decision with their physician.
- Adults who work in high-risk settings may also choose to receive a booster dose after considering their individual risks and benefit. Examples of those occupations include first responders (healthcare workers, firefighters, police), professionals in education (teachers, school staff, daycare workers), food service, grocery stores, corrections industry, and manufacturing.
Dr. Dascomb shared CDC's list of underlying medical condition, including:
- Heart conditions (such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies or hypertension)
- Stroke or vascular diseases that affect blood flow to the brain
- Kidney problems
- Lung diseases, including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma, and cystic fibrosis
- Liver disease
- Dementia or Alzheimer's
- Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
- Down syndrome
- Obesity (BMI ?30 kg/m)
- Pregnancy or recent pregnancy
- Smoking, current or former
- Substance use disorders
- HIV infection*
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system)
- Sickle cell disease or thalassemia*
- Solid organ or blood stem cell transplant*
"If you are getting a Moderna booster and have a condition or take a medicine that suppresses your immune system, you may need a full dose of Moderna for your booster rather than the half-dose booster," said Dr. Dascomb. "Talk to your doctor about what dose is best for you."
Dr. Dascomb also said that the CDC recommendations now allows mixing-and-matching of COVID-19 vaccines, meaning you can get a different type of vaccine booster than the type of vaccine you originally received. "If you can get the same vaccine it is suggested to do so."
Patients can get vaccinated by their primary care provider, or by finding a clinic at vaccine.gov. Some locations may allow walk-in visits, but others will require an appointment. "Remember to take your vaccination card with you so you can show that you have received the initial series of vaccine. There is no need in Utah to provide a note from your healthcare team to prove you have an underlying medical condition," said Dr. Dascomb.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said people who have received a booster shot report side effects similar to what they experienced after their first two shots. The most common side effects after a booster are fatigue and pain at the injection site. Most side effects were mild to moderate; serious side effects are rare. Individuals are encouraged to contact their physician if the redness or tenderness where they got the shot gets worse after 24 hours or if side effects are worrying or do not seem to be going away after a few days.
The CDC also recommends that everyone over six months of age get the flu vaccine, even if they are not eligible for the COVID-19 booster. Individuals can get both vaccines at the same time.
Dr. Dascomb said not to worry if you aren't yet eligible for a booster. "Data from across the country show that the vaccines are doing a remarkable job of preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Recent figures from the Utah Department of Health show that unvaccinated Utahns had 6.4 times greater risk of getting COVID-19, 7.3 times the risk of being hospitalized, and 5.9 times the risk of dying than people who are vaccinated."
"COVID-19 is an ever-changing situation, but the available vaccines are working," she said.
Visit Intermountain's COVID-19 vaccine website for more information.
About Intermountain Healthcare
Located in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada, Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit system of 25 hospitals, 225 clinics, the Intermountain Medical Group with some 2,700 employed physicians and advanced care practitioners, a health plans division called SelectHealth, Homecare, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information, see Intermountain Healthcare or the Intermountain Healthcare Blog.