VERYWELL HEALTH – In America’s six-pronged plan to combat the spread of the Delta variant, booster shots are a prominent piece.
Boosters are authorized for all three of the available COVID vaccines in the United States.
In addition to the previously authorized additional doses for moderately to severely immunocompromised individuals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends a COVID-19 booster for everyone 16 years and older who:
- Completed the Pfizer or Moderna primary vaccine series at least six months ago.
- Received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago.
But some scientists are asking if healthy Americans need booster shots. Continuing clinical trials show that antibodies from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines slowly decline starting around six months.
Antibodies, however, are only part of the immune defense trained by natural immunity from COVID-19 infection or the vaccine.
Antibodies Are Only One Line of Defense
At a recent webinar hosted by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, Marion Pepper, PhD, an associate professor of immunology at the University of Washington, explained why she would personally refuse a booster shot as a healthy individual under the age of 65.
“What we’re seeing is that there are good immune memory cells that we can look at both their quality and their quantity,” Pepper said.
“And more importantly, we are not seeing studies that are showing increases in disease. That’s what we have to look at with these vaccines: are they preventing disease? They are largely still doing that.”
Pepper explained that while antibody levels may gradually decline, they are not the only line of defense against infection and disease.
“What we need to remember is that antibodies are like a force field,” Pepper says.
“If you’ve seen ‘The Incredibles,’ that is the force field that is sent out to protect the family. But if the infection gets past the antibodies, if there are holes in the force field, or that force field begins to wane, there’s still this whole team of superheroes underneath it … ”
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