NewCourtland Germantown Home hosted its first COVID vaccine educational video session. Our session was led by Dr. Neil Pitts and Dr. Ashley Ritter.
Link to video: https://youtu.be/UKSLM3ytnV0
We also want to share with you some of the frequently asked questions that were shared with the group:
Do I need to get a COVID-19 booster?
YES. The CDC recently recommended that all adults over the age of 16 receive a COVID-19 booster dose. People who are eligible include:
Why do I need another dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?
Booster doses are needed because of the way the immune system works AND because of the high rates of COVID-19 spread in the community. A growing body of information SUPPORTS a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines.
Studies show that immunity to COVID-19 decreases over time. At first, COVID-19 booster doses were reserved for people at the highest risk of severe disease and death. High risk populations included people over the age of 65, people with chronic medical conditions, and people who live in long term care facilities. As more time passes, more studies have been conducted to understand the immune systems’ response over time. Multiple studies show that people who receive a booster dose are less likely to catch COVID-19 when compared to people who receive 2 doses of an mRNA vaccine or 1 dose of Johnson and Johnson. In addition, people who have had COVID-19 and received COVID-19 vaccinations are less likely to be re-infected with COVID-19. Current data suggests a benefit from booster doses for all adults.
The increased protection of a booster dose is extra helpful during the surge of infections we are currently experiencing. Winter has moved many activities inside increasing the spread of COVID-19. Many places have stopped enforcing strict mitigation measures to prevent the spread of the virus. The Delta variant AND the newer Omicron variant are circulating in the US and spread more easily from person to person than previous variants. The result has been a steep increase in the number of cases, particularly in the Philadelphia area. A booster dose of the vaccine acts as an additional layer of protection to prevent infection and severe illness at a time when infection risk is very high. Even if you do not believe you will get very sick with COVID-19, every case that is prevented slows further transmission in the community.
Will I get sick after a booster dose like I did with the second dose?
You may experience symptoms of immune system activation following your booster dose. The range of symptoms varies from person to person. Some people experience no symptoms while others feel lousy. The most common symptoms include a sore arm and fatigue. More bothersome symptoms include fever, body aches, nausea, and headaches. Most symptoms will improve within a day or two.
You can make some plans to minimize symptoms after your booster dose. You can schedule your booster dose for a time convenient to you. You can use Acetaminophen (Tylenol), Ibuprofen (Advil) and other over-the-counter medications to treat symptoms that arise after your vaccine. You are encouraged to move your arm around and drink plenty of fluids following your vaccine.
Will I need to get another booster in the future? Will the COVID-19 vaccine be like an annual flu shot?
We don’t know IF or WHEN future doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be needed. Today, we encourage all adults to receive 3 doses of an mRNA vaccine or an mRNA vaccine after the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Scientists will continue to monitor the immune system to determine if and when immunity decreases in people who have received a booster dose. In addition, scientists will study the effectiveness of current vaccines against new variants. It is possible that additional doses will be required as more time passes and the virus changes.
Why can I still get COVID-19 even if I was vaccinated against COVID-19?
The COVID-19 vaccinations are GREAT at preventing most infections and REALLY GREAT at reducing severe illness and death from infection. This was their primary purpose. If you come in contact with enough virus, you may still develop infection and symptoms. The immune system will have some preparation to fight the infection to decrease the severity of symptoms. If you are infected with COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine, the chances of requiring hospitalization are extremely reduced. Three doses of mRNA appear very effective against infection even from new variants. People who have been vaccinated AND had COVID-19 infection are the least likely to be re-infected with the virus at this time.
Should I get a COVID-19 booster if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
YES! Vaccination plus a booster is the best protection against severe illness and pregnancy complications for pregnant women. Breastfeeding mothers can pass the protective COVID-19 antibodies to their children who are not yet eligible for vaccination through breastmilk. Pregnant women who catch COVID-19 are at high risk for severe illness and hospitalization. In addition, COVID-19 infection during pregnancy increases the chance of preterm delivery which could result in negative health for the baby. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe AND effective during pregnancy and are recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the CDC.
Will the current COVID-19 vaccinations protect me from the Omicron variant?
Three doses of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines provides far more protection against Omicron when compared to two doses. A recent study showed a 25-fold increase in neutralizing antibody titers against the Omicron variant with three doses of the Pfizer vaccine when compared to two doses. This is a BIG DEAL! The goal of vaccination is to make it harder to catch and spread COVID-19 AND decrease the severity of illness. Booster doses of the vaccine are effective in both, though breakthrough cases remain possible.