Is a 3rd shot in your future? Doctor Q&A on COVID-19 vaccine boosters

News4Jax Anchor Bruce Hamilton spoke with a local epidemiologist about what the booster shot really is, and what different kinds there are.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you feel like the news around COVID-19 booster shots is giving you whiplash, you’re not alone. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended people who have suppressed immune systems get a third shot now.

It emphasized they didn’t support booster shots for everyone just yet, but the White House said last week it would push for everyone who got the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to get a booster eight months after receiving their second shot.

With so many questions about those booster shots, epidemiologist Dr. Jonathan Kantor, with the Penn Center for Epidemiology, came on The Morning Show to provide answers to the most asked questions.

  • Q: How does the booster work? Does it contain something different from the first COVID shots I received?
  • A: The booster shots that we’re talking about right now in the US are absolutely the same shot as you got the first couple times around. So, essentially, what you’re doing is you’re getting a third shot. What’s happening differently is that your body is already primed, your body is ready to basically go and react to the vaccine. And because of that, it has such a more dramatic effect. It’s a much more powerful effect. And that is what is giving the boost effect. So, it’s not that it’s a different shot. It’s not that it’s a different medicine. It’s the same one that you received before.
  • Q: If I got Pfizer the first time, do I have to get Pfizer again or can I mix vaccines?
  • A: Right now the plan is for you to get Pfizer if you got Pfizer the first round. If you got Moderna the first time you should be getting Moderna the third time as well. Those vaccines are very similar. If there were to be an issue where there wasn’t availability we could talk about switching back and forth, but right now, there is not an issue.
  • Q: I got my second shot in June and it’s available to me in September. That’s only three months. Should I wait the recommended eight months to get the booster?
  • A: I would not recommend that you get it then. It’s also a really important issue. One of the reasons that they’re rolling it out in this way is logistics. It’s because, as we saw in the beginning, there was a little bit of a crunch for vaccine supply, so essentially now Pfizer, have been put on alert hey we’re going to need millions and millions more doses in the U.S., so they’re ramping up production to really make sure that we have that and the states are ramping up acquisition, the federal government is ramping that up, But that’s not going to happen all at once. From a logistics standpoint, it’s important that people plan to basically treat the eight-month period, as essentially your turn in line. The other thing is that the data that we have, that they’re going to be basing these decisions on, are based on a more protracted time course. So you don’t want to get the vaccines too close together. I don’t know if anyone really knows if it won’t quite as well if you get them too close together. But I would wait for that eight-month period. That said, the government has been clear there’s nothing magical about the eight-month point. Again,, that’s when I suggest you consider that booster shot given what we know.
  • Q: I had COVID and I hear the antibodies from the disease are as good as having gotten the vaccine. True or false?
  • A: That is false. There have been a lot of laboratory studies that looked at whether the antibodies that you get from natural immunity from just having been infected with COVID are as effective, or more effective. Is your body better attuned to it because you contracted COVID? The truth is that, unfortunately, our bodies, even on a kind of molecular basis, don’t respond as dramatically to the actual infection as they do to the vaccine. We don’t have as many antibodies from the actual infection. Recent data from about 10 days ago, also from the CDC in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, showed that in real life as well. It has an effect, meaning that people who had had a second vaccine, people that have been vaccinated, and then were exposed were about two and a half times less likely to get COVID than people who had previously had COVID. That proved that the vaccine is about two and a half times more effective than actually just having had COVID against preventing future infections

Watch Bruce Hamilton’s full interview with Dr. Kantor

Dr Jonathan Kantor, an epidemiologist with the Penn Center for Epidemiology, explains to Bruce Hamilton the how, why and when of getting a COVID-19 booster shot.

About the Author:

This Emmy Award-winning television, radio and newspaper journalist has anchored The Morning Show for 18 years.