With Omicron still causing hundreds of thousands of new COVID cases every day, it’s understandable that for some people infection is starting to seem inevitable. Getting a COVID booster may be the best thing you can do to protect yourself.
As SELF has reported, vaccines are the best way to prevent serious consequences of COVID like hospitalization and death. But research also shows that vaccine protection can decline over time. Enter the need for a third dose to increase antibody levels. When the omicron variant started to rise, it became particularly clear that two doses might not be enough to prevent you from contracting the highly contagious variant. In December, vaccine makers Pfizer and BioNTech released to research which found that while two doses of the vaccine still offered protection against « severe forms of the disease », they were significantly less effective in preventing infection.
As omicron continued to spread, it is now responsible for 99.9% of all COVID infections in the United States, per CNN– scientists worked to determine how well the COVID booster protects against mild infections as well as severe consequences of COVID. This week, vaccine maker Moderna published a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine, who found two important things: six months after the booster shot, the antibody protection had waned, but ultimately it was still effective in protecting against the virus.
The Moderna study found, similar to the results of the Pfizer BioNTech study, that anti-COVID antibodies declined significantly in the months following the second dose of the vaccine. By analyzing blood samples from people who received the Moderna vaccine, the researchers found that levels of antibodies capable of neutralizing the omicron were found in 85% of people one month after their second dose. But after seven months, the neutralization of the omicron was found in only 55% of people. Getting a third dose changed things somewhat. Researchers reported a 20-fold increase in omicron-neutralizing antibodies one month after the booster.
But has the back-up protection also diminished? It did, according to the study, but not nearly as much. Six months after the booster shot, antibody protection was just over six times lower than it was after its first administration, which the researchers expected. « That’s not uncommon, for mRNA vaccines or for vaccines in general, » said Dave Montefiori, Ph.D., a professor in Duke University’s Department of Surgery and co-author of the Moderna study. . CNN. « Antibodies go down because the body thinks it doesn’t need to keep them at that high level. That doesn’t mean there’s no protection. There’s immunological memory. At this period, another laboratory to study from Pfizer, which was published earlier this week, found that four months after a booster dose, antibody levels were still high enough to protect against omicron, The Washington Post reported.
Despite all this, as SELF has previously reported, only 67% of the eligible population is fully immunized (what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently defines as having received two primary doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or an injection of the single dose Johnson & Johnson vax), according to the CDC. And among those vaccinated, only 40% received their booster.