First there was “Zoom fatigue,” the overwhelming sense of “here we go again” when dealing with what passed for human contact over much of the past two years.
Now, doctors are afraid we will see “vaccine fatigue,” the overwhelming sense of “here we go again” when dealing with the need to get a second booster shot to help protect against COVID-19.
“I am absolutely worried about vaccine fatigue,” says Dr. Vishnu Chundi, infection control specialist at Ascension (formerly Amita) St. Francis Hospital in Evanston.
“Less than 50% of the public has gotten the third dose,” (the first booster), Chundi says.
“And now,” he adds, “we’re recommending a fourth dose” (second booster).
The COVID shot, whichever manufacturer’s shot you get, Chundi explains, is “not a forever vaccine.”
It loses some effectiveness over several months, effectiveness which is, well, boosted by a booster shot.
The FDA recently authorized a second booster for those over age 50, and who had their first booster at least four months ago.
Also authorized, a second Pfizer booser for immunocompromised individuals age 12 and up, and a second Moderna booster for the same group 18 and older.
So, should you get Booster 2?
“It depends,” Dr. Chundi says, “on how immune-intact you are.”
Everyone’s immunity wanes after age 60-65, so he says everyone in the older age group should roll up their sleeves again.
As for those over 50 but under 60-65, Chundi a perfectly healthy 50-year old with no underlying conditions could potentially get by without a second booster.
“Who do you live with?,” is a good question to ask.
If you have an unvaccinated grandchild (under 5), or have frequent contact with, say, a cancer patient, then you should get the second booster, no matter your age.
That’s because, Chundi says, without a shot, “you may carry the virus in your nose” and pass it along without even realizing it or feeling sick yourself.
As for whether you can “mix and match,” say, if you had Pfizer shots can you get Moderna for your next booster, or vice-versa, Dr. Todd Nega, infectious disease physician at NorthShore University HealthSystem, says, “There is some data that says mixing Moderna and Pfizer may provide stronger protection, however the important point is to get the second booster if you are eligible, as it protects against hospitalization and death.”
The second booster (or the first, or the initial shots as well) are available at area immediate care centers and many pharmacies.
The City of Evanston is also signing up residents who may want to attend a city-sponsored booster clinic when one takes place.
And don’t be surprised if you have to get yet another booster down the road … and perhaps more in years to come.
“That will be the case for the foreseeable future,” says Nega, as vaccines are modified to deal with new strains of the virus.
COVID is ever-changing. Witness the new BA.2 subvariant, which is supplanting Omicron BA.1 as the major strain in the United States, and is even more transmissible.
There is not a BA.2 spike in our area now, but with COVID, you never know what may happen next.
That’s why, experts say, a second booster is important.
If you are vaccinated, boosted, and boosted again, Chundi says, the virus is “less likely to get into your lungs and kill you.”
So “vaccine fatigue” may be here to stay. But, doctors point out, “vaccine fatigue” is a lot better than the total body fatigue, difficulty breathing, and possible death from COVID-19 itself.