It has been a year since the first vaccines were distributed and although many countries still have a low percentage of vaccinated people the vaccines have proven to be saving lives, especially for those at risk of dying from COVID-19. Both doses of Pfizer have been found to be around 88% effective, whereas if double jabbed with Moderna’s vaccine, the effectiveness is around 93%. Therefore, vaccinated people are less likely to die or develop severe side effects from the virus.
Additionally, British scientists at the University of Oxford reported that vaccinated people who test positive are also less likely to transmit it to others. Vaccines are the most important and necessary step towards combating the virus and ensuring the safety of everyone.
Nevertheless, studies have found that the protection against contraction and transmission was waning over time. After three months of being vaccinated with AstraZeneca, people were ‘just as likely to spread the delta variant as the unvaccinated’. For Pfizer, the protection decreased from around 90% to 70% after five months since the second dose. However, while the protection against a mild infection wanes more quickly, the protection from being hospitalised or dying from COVID-19 ‘wanes more slowly’ if double vaccinated.
When receiving the vaccine, there is a surge of immune cells and antibodies that fight against any unwanted invader in the body, like a virus. Over time, these antibodies start fading which is what leads to a lower protection percentage against the virus. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, recently explained that immunity is waning to the point where more people are contracting the virus despite vaccination and that ‘boosters will be an essential part of the protection’ going forward.
To make sure that immunity gained from vaccines lasts longer, it is important that all eligible people get a third vaccine, also referred to as the booster shot. This is a standard and normal part of the vaccination procedure. The third dose will help renew the effectiveness level of the previous two vaccines, in order for those who take it to be more protected.
Essentially, the booster’s function is to increase the level of antibodies and immune cells so that they are just as capable of fighting against the virus as they were before with the two shots, strengthening their potency. Recent studies have also highlighted the benefits of getting the booster dose to protect oneself and others against the Omicron variant.
At the time of writing, over 34million people in the UK have received their booster jab. Boris Johnson stated that ‘there is a tidal wave of Omicron coming’, resulting in his decision to offer the booster shot to all adults.
However, people over 18 need to have waited at least three months since their second dose as their immunity is still relatively strong during the initial months after the vaccination. If you have recently tested positive for COVID-19, you must wait until 4 weeks after your positive test to receive your booster jab. The goal is for everyone who is of age to get the third vaccine dose by the end of 2021.
On the 30th of December, 11,452 people were in hospital with COVID-19, but many of these were incidental cases – people who were in hospital for other reasons who later tested positive. There have also been more deaths of people who have had both doses of the vaccine, highlighting waning immunity. According to early data, the third vaccine dose has the potential to give a person around ‘70% to 75% protection against symptomatic infection from Omicron’.
Despite the increasing cases, with the Merck pill already approved and the percentage of vaccinated people remaining high, the UK is on the track to reducing the overall impact of the current pandemic and ensuring that fewer people lose their lives because of the virus. However, due to the high number of daily COVID-19 cases and the recent Omicron variant, those eligible should make sure to book their booster vaccine on the NHS website in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, avoid waning immunity, and protect us all.
About the author: Giulia Castagnaro is a contributing Features writer with a Master’s degree in ‘Gender, Society and Representation’ and an interest in social and cultural politics, and healthcare.
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