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Health experts say it's likely COVID boosters will be needed at some point

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Posted at 5:54 PM, May 20, 2021

Over the last few months, millions of Americans have waited in line and rolled up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine. Some medical experts in the Tampa Bay area say it’s possible we’ll need a booster shot down the road to stay protected.

The latest CDC data on COVID-19 vaccinations in the US shows almost 50 percent of the total population has had at least one dose of the vaccine. Dr. Jill Roberts, an associate professor with USF Health, says she thinks it’s likely we will need a booster of the vaccine at some point.

Roberts says that’s because of two reasons, and one has to do with mutations.

“I would use the analogy of influenza. Every year, we actually have to have a different influenza shot because the strain mutates, so we’re watching coronavirus doing the exact same thing: where, as the variants spread, we get new variants, and it mutates,” said Dr. Roberts. “So it makes a lot of sense to actually boost at about one year and adjust that vaccine to whatever strain is actually going around.”

She says the other reason has to do with antibody levels.

Dr. Michael Longley, an emergency physician and Chief Medical Officer at AdventHealth North Pinellas, explained the data we’re seeing right now at the six-month mark is very promising and shows people who’ve had the two-shot series from Pfizer or Moderna are maintaining a good level of immunity.

“The exciting part is that we’re seeing really good benefits from the immunization,” said Longley. “The unknown is what is it going to look [like] at nine months? What will it look like at a year? And that’s yet to be determined.”

Dr. Longley also explained what a booster actually does to your immune system.

“Over time, the body can sort of forget what that infection looks like, and so in simple terms, a booster is really just a refresher or reminder to our natural immune system that, ‘Hey I’m here. I’m reminding you that you need to be working to protect against the virus,'” said Dr. Longley.

While studies continue, health experts want you to look at the idea of a booster on the bright side.

“I would say take a positive point of view in that the science can actually protect you for another year out because the worst-case scenario is we go back to shutdowns and masks and distancing and all this awful stuff we’ve had to do for the last year, if the trade-off is you know I can just go get a vaccine, and I’ll be fine, and society will go on,” said Roberts.