Do you need a COVID-19 booster shot? UGA study looks at vaccine protection – Online Athens

Leigh Beeson| University of Georgia

If you got the COVID-19 shots back in early spring, your antibodies are likely waning. But its not something you need to be worried about, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.

Overall, antibody levels are decreasing, but their ability to protect against infection isnt, saidTed Ross, lead author and the director of UGAsCenter for Vaccines and Immunology. The quality is still there even if the total quantity has gone down.

Published in Frontiers in ImmunologysVaccines and Molecular Therapeutics, the study found that vaccination results in a significantly more robust immune response than seen in people who contracted the coronavirus naturally.

Vaccinated participants showed higher levels of neutralizing antibodies, which serve as lookouts for viruses and alert the bodys immune system when its been infected. These individuals antibodies were also more effective at binding with the virus, which prevents it from latching onto and infecting cells.

More: UGA to require some employees to get COVID-19 vaccine, be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8

Additionally, the study showed that for most people who were infected with the virus, a single shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine was enough to make them fully immune to the coronavirus. Some may require both shots to be fully protected, though, and theres currently no way to tell who does or doesnt. So, Ross recommends that everyone even those whove had COVID-19 receive the second shot. It doesnt hurt you to get the second one, he said.

The research is part of a large-scale, multi-year surveillance program with more than 3,100 participants, ranging from 18 to 90 years old. They give blood and saliva samples each month so the researchers can track their immune response to vaccination or natural infection.

The takeaway is that even if you have waning antibodies, the quality of those antibodies still protect you against severe disease and hospitalization, said Ross, who is also a professor in UGAsCollege of Veterinary Medicine. People were concerned that if you had waning antibody levels, you would become susceptible to the virus again. But right now that doesnt seem to be the case for most people.

The CDC recently recommended booster shots for older adults, those with underlying medical conditions and people who work or live in high-risk settings if they received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine series six or more months ago. The agency also encourages a booster for everyone who received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

Some health care experts questioned whether booster access should be expanded to all due to the uncertainty surrounding the vaccines long-term efficacy in staving off disease.

But people who were vaccinated in the spring and dont qualify for a booster shouldnt panic.

Now I dont know what will happen in another six months or another 12 months, but right now, if you were vaccinated in the spring, you should still have protective antibodies in you, Ross said. The elderly tend to lose their immunity more quickly. We see that with influenza too. Thats why they have to get vaccinated again. Younger people can maintain it longer.

That being said, if youre eligible for a booster, go for it.

My attitude is that if youre offered one, you should get one. It cant hurt you, Ross said. And unfortunately, here in the U.S., many of the vaccines are being thrown away because they reached their expiration date. Its unfortunate that were not shipping them around the world to other people who need them, but if the alternative is throwing them away, I say get a booster shot.

In addition to getting the COVID-19 vaccine series, social distancing and wearing masks are still one of the most important ways to stop the spread of the disease.

This study was funded in part by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Co-authors include David Forgacs, Hyesun Jang, Rodrigo Abreu, Hannah Hanley, Jasper Gattiker and Alexandria Jefferson, all from UGAs Center for Vaccines and Immunology.

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Do you need a COVID-19 booster shot? UGA study looks at vaccine protection - Online Athens

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