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By Bill Hoagland
It has been recommended by the CDC and the Biden Administration that seniors (those who are 60 years of age and older) and those under 60 who have weakened immunities receive the Pfizer booster vaccine if they previously received the two dose course of the Pfizer COVID 19 vaccine at least five months ago. This is because there now is medical evidence that after about five months after the second shot, the Pfizer vaccine begins to wane in its ability to provide continued antibody protection.
We are admittedly in uncharted territory when it comes to predicting how long these COVID 19 vaccines remain effective. So in order to determine for ourselves whether we will in fact benefit medically from a third Pfizer “booster” shot, we need to see what scientific studies are available at this point. We are, after all, told to “follow the science” if there is any doubt.
Fortunately, we now have a scientific study that addresses the issues of whether the Pfizer booster shot is effective and whether it will reduce medical complications for those persons who still contract COVID 19 despite having been vaccinated. That study—conducted in Israel this summer—was reported in the September 15 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), and is very encouraging because over one million persons—all over the age of 60—participated in this test; in other words, we are not talking about just a handful of patients upon which to draw conclusions; having over a million participants makes this test result credible.
The other encouraging aspect of this study was that the Pfizer booster shot was administered as the delta variant was rapidly spreading in Israel. In fact, in Israel during January 2021, there were 900 cases per one million persons; by July, there were only 2 cases per one million persons but suddenly the delta variant began spreading in Israel and infecting even fully vaccinated persons. Infections began to soar. At that point, the Pfizer booster shot was administered to those one million persons between July 30 and August 31, 2021. They were all tested twelve days after they received the booster. In other words, this booster shot and the follow-up tests specifically addressed the efficacy of the Pfizer booster shot as it relates to the delta variant.
So what do the tests in Israel prove? First, they establish that the Pfizer booster shot significantly increases antibodies beyond those generated by the two dose regime—by a factor of ten, actually. In short, the Pfizer booster shot has an efficacy rate of 95% even as to the delta variant. Second, the Pfizer booster shot is even more effective—by a factor of almost 20—in reducing the severity of symptoms for those vaccinated persons who do contract COVID 19 despite being fully vaccinated.
With so many participants in this test, it is a reliable indication that the Pfizer booster is effective even as to certain variants of COVID 19 and that it will reduce symptoms for those who still contract the virus. Obviously, only those persons who have received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine should participate in this booster shot program at this point. Annie and I got our boosters this week. If you are a senior, with two Pfizer vaccines to your credit, maybe you should consider doing it too. None of us have all the answers about COVID 19 but we know now—for certain—that this disease can have long term effects on your liver, your heart and yes, even your brain. Why make things worse?
• Bill Hoagland has practiced law in Alton for more than 50 years, but he has spent more than 70 years hunting, fishing and generally being in the great outdoors. His wife, Annie, shares his love of the outdoor life. Much of their spare time is spent on their farm in Calhoun County. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.