Vaccination is the best source of personal defense against infectious diseases like SARS-CoV2 and influenza. Vaccinations are designed to provide lifelong immunity and will decrease the likelihood of severe complications from infection. The vaccines have been shown to be effective against previous viral variants and will offer the best protection against future variants. However, a vaccine is not a forcefield to block the virus from entering your body, the virus can still infect you but will likely be controlled early in the infection if you have high levels of pre-existing immunity. That is where boosters come in! Everyone is now eligible for SARS-CoV2 booster shots from their health providers. Before coming back to campus this spring, it is strongly encouraged we all get our vaccines boosted. The influenza virus is also circulating at higher levels this year. It is okay to get both SARS-CoV2 and influenza vaccines at the same time. This will help prevent a “twindemic” from hitting our community.
Your immune system is a marvelous adaptable part of your body, and it can be trained over time. With each dose of the vaccine, you are increasing both the number of virus specific immune cells and their ability to bind/neutralize the pathogen. However, maintaining a “standing immune army” is energetically expensive, so your immunity, specifically circulating antibodies, will decrease as time passes since your last vaccination. Therefore, we need multiple doses and booster shots. During the peak of cold and flu season a boost will maximize the number of immune cells at the same time we are most likely to encounter the pathogen.
If you are immunocompromised or have co-morbidities (overweight, diabetic, heart problems, etc.) you are more at risk for severe disease from COVID-19 and the booster is something you need to get for personal safety. Additionally, as new variants emerge the vaccines are still very effective, but it may take higher levels of immunity to prevent severe disease. If we all get boosted, this will ramp up our immunity, and will decrease disease burden in our local community and help control viral spread.