COVID-19 Booster Vaccine Q&A

Am I eligible to receive a COVID 19 Booster?

The FDA and CDC both approved boosters for all adults 18 and older on Friday (assuming you are 6 months out from the second vaccine). I do think getting boosters is very important and I strongly urge all of my patients to get a booster. An important difference between the effect of the booster and the original vaccines is that the immune protection happens much more rapidly with the booster (within 2-3 days), so it behooves all of us to get the booster soon.

How do I get the booster at your office?

If you are in our office for another reason (ie for an appointment), you can just sign in at the front desk opposite the main entrance and get the booster. However, we are asking people who are just coming in for the booster to call their doctor to set up an appointment specifically for the booster. You do not need to schedule an appointment for other vaccines (flu, shingles, etc) - you can just walk in for those. Please note that we do have both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It is also completely fine to get the booster from any other source, like a pharmacy.

Can I get the COVID 19 Booster at the same time as other shots like the flu or shingles vaccine?

The short answer is yes. You can get any vaccine at the same time as the COVID booster, and I strongly encourage you to get the flu vaccine if you have not received it yet. The early signs are that this will be a more severe flu season than last year based on the virus that is circulating so far.

Should I get the same booster as the original vaccine I received?

There is no correct answer here. There is some theoretical benefit to getting a different vaccine than the one you received originally (ie getting the Pfizer booster if your first two shots were Moderna), but there is not much real-world data showing this approach is superior to sticking with your original vaccine. As a result, I lean slightly toward just sticking with your original vaccine (which is what I did personally). However, if you do want to switch and get a different vaccine than your original series, I have no concerns about that. At the end of the day, I believe research will bear out that both approaches achieve similar results.

What happened to the idea of herd immunity?

The ultimate goal in fighting any pandemic is to achieve herd immunity, and that is still the case with COVID. The problem is that, as a virus becomes more contagious, the number of people required to be immune to achieve herd immunity goes up significantly. The delta variant of COVID is so contagious that we would need well over 90% of all people (including children) to be immune in order to achieve herd immunity. We are still nowhere close to that and will likely not achieve that number for quite some time. That does not mean that vaccinations are not working. They are - and the more people that are vaccinated (and receive boosters), the more it reduces transmission and the closer we get to ultimately achieving this goal.

Are we going into another wave of COVID?

Unfortunately, the answer appears to be yes. One thing to recognize with COVID is that the numbers are not going to be "flat". There will be continuous waves and we will either be going up or going down. The hope is that the waves become smaller and shorter over time. With colder weather (which COVID likes) and some waning immunity from the vaccines as people who have not been boosted yet move further away from their original vaccine, we will be seeing a continued wave. This will likely be further fueled by gatherings with the upcoming holidays. My hope is that this wave will be less intense that the initial delta wave that started in August. The point is that the pandemic is not over, but there are reasons to be very hopeful! (see the next question).

What is happening with the pills that are coming out for treating COVID?

This is the single most exciting development happening with COVID. Merck has a drug that reduces hospitalization and death from COVID by 50% when taken early after diagnosis, and Pfizer has a medication (a combination of two drugs), that reduces hospitalization and death by 89%. The FDA will be reviewing these for emergency use authorization over the coming weeks. The idea behind these medications is similar to Tamiflu for influenza. As soon as you develop symptoms of COVID, you would get a test and if positive take these pills. The purpose is to use them well before you become severely ill and keep COVID a mild illness. We do not know when these medications will be approved, who will be eligible to receive them, or how they will be distributed, but these truly have the potential to be game changers for the pandemic.