FAQ: Doctor explains COVID-19 vaccine booster shots

Top Stories

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Some people are already getting COVID-19 vaccine booster shots and more people are urged to get them soon.

The Biden administration plans to begin offering booster shots Sept. 20 for adults who have received both doses of Pfizer or Moderna.

Johnson & Johnson also has a booster shot in the works. The company released data from its clinical trials Wednesday, saying its booster shot has been shown to increase antibodies nine times over the initial shot alone.

From local hospitals to health departments, officials told News 8 they’re still waiting for more guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — referred to as ACIP — about the specifics of the booster shot rollout.

In the meantime, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ronald Grifka with Metro Health – University of Michigan Health answered our questions about what we know about the booster so far:

Why do vaccinated people need a booster?

“What we’ve noticed with the COVID vaccines is the first six months or so, the antibody levels are really strong, so (there’s) good protection. But after six months, they start to decrease a little bit, three or four or five percent each month. With all vaccines over time, the antibody levels do tend to wane and the booster dose is just another way to kick it up to make sure you’re protected.”

Is the booster the same shot and dosage as the first and second shot?

“For adults, it’s the exact same dose as the first two and if you got the Pfizer vaccine then your third dose should be Pfizer and the same with Moderna, continuing that sequence.”

What’s your reaction to Johnson & Johnson’s announcing its booster shot has been shown to increase antibodies by ninefold?

“It’s great news, but it’s not surprising. (Just like) with the Pfizer vaccine, with the third booster dose, we’re seeing anywhere from I think an eight- to elevenfold increase in antibody levels, so that’s what you’d expect to see.”

People will become eligible to receive the booster shot eight months after their second dose. Is there any benefit to getting it earlier?

“If it hasn’t been eight months, you shouldn’t (get it) and don’t need it. You still have good antibodies, so might as well wait a few more months to make sure when your antibody levels start to fall, you get the booster dose that would give you the best protection.”

Grifka and other West Michigan health officials say they’re in the early stages of organizing booster clinics and vaccination sites. They expect to have more information to share with the public in the coming weeks.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.