Mark Jansen, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer at Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, discusses the importance of COVID-19 boosters.
The omicron variant of COVID-19 is still sweeping across Arkansas, the United States and the rest of the world. People who are vaccinated and unvaccinated are testing positive. You may be wondering, “Should I get a booster dose of the COVID vaccine, and why bother if it doesn’t work?”
Your immune system remembers
Our body’s immune system is much like the memory in our brains. Just as we have short-term and long-term memory, our immune systems functions similarly. Vaccines stimulate the immune system with something less harmful than the actual disease. As a result, your immune system is already educated when encountering the real thing (it remembers). Many effective vaccinations require frequent “reminding” of the immune system to provide the best protection. Anyone with small children will recall all the DPT shots in the first few years of life. Likewise, if you step on a rusty nail, and you might need a tetanus booster.
I know we are all tired of the pandemic. The seemingly endless recommendations changes about vaccinations, protective measures and now boosters can be frustrating. But remember, this particular coronavirus has never infected humans before. Our understanding of its potential to change improves daily. Between our knowledge and the ability of the virus to mutate, the guidance has – and will continue to – change.
Lowering your risk
Vaccines reduce the likelihood of infection, and should one occur, minimize symptoms and illness. Very few vaccines offer “sterilizing immunity,” meaning you won’t get sick from the targeted virus after receiving the vaccine series. COVID vaccines aren’t expected to provide sterilizing immunity. Current breakthrough infections in fully immunized individuals are proving that point daily. They do reduce the risk of a condition leading to hospitalization or death. This is where the boosters come in.
As protection wanes from the original immunizations, your body’s immune system needs to be “reminded” of the threat. A booster redoubles your immune system’s creation of protective antibodies and other immune responses. So, do yourself and your family a favor. If you are eligible for a booster, please consider getting one. Give your immune system one more chance to learn how best to keep you safe.