Booster vaccinations for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are very important – for certain populations, according to Dr. Donald Yealy, UPMC Chief Medical Officer and Chair of Emergency Medicine, and Dr. Graham Snyder, UPMC Medial Director of Infection Prevention and Hospital Epidemiology.
The discussion followed weeks of speculation surrounding the COVID-19 booster vaccination issue, as Pfizer only recently received emergency FDA clearance to use a third vaccination on people who fall into high-risk categories.
“It’s essentially a repetition lesson for your immune system.” said Yealy. “It gives your body another chance to build on the response it had either to a previous vaccine or to recovery from the disease.”
“With the latest news, we’re talking about another purpose of the vaccine, as Dr. Yealy mentioned.” said Snyder. “And that goes for people for whom the vaccine is still working very well, but we’re starting to see signs that the immune system needs a reminder.”
The groups mentioned refer to the elderly population, to persons with diseases at risk of complications and to persons with a high risk of exposure due to their location and / or occupation.
For those who don’t fall into these groups, this is what Yealy had to say about the booster vaccination: “It is not so much necessary that you have a vulnerability, but your immunity changes over time. This ensures that the lesson is taught (through the primary vaccination). “
Another reason for the booster was the changing nature of the virus itself.
“We saw the SARS-COVID-2 virus change … The very first virus in western Pennsylvania was not the same as it was in Wuhan, China.” said Yealy. “What we’re doing right now is making sure the really good response your body learned for 97% of the population stays that way.”
A common theme during the discussion was the continued importance of vaccination even for those who have not yet been vaccinated.
“What is not at all controversial – it didn’t change yesterday or today, weeks ago when the president announced something – is that vaccines are one of the most powerful tools we have to change this pandemic.” said Yealy.
“According to our data at UPMC, across the system, you have a five to fifteen times higher risk of needing intensive care, respiratory support and death in all communities if you are not vaccinated.”
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