A health worker administers a dose of a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic at the Reading Area Community College in Reading, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) Virus Outbreak Pennsylvania
A health worker administers a dose of a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic at the Reading Area Community College in Reading, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Dr. Debra Powell, of Reading Hospital, explains why the COVID-19 vaccine booster shot is important, who is eligible to receive it, and if more booster shots will be necessary.

If there was a way to increase your antibody levels to protect you against COVID-19, would you be interested?

If you believe in science you probably would. And such a way exists with the Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot. It’s just another layer of protection in the ongoing battle against the virus, said Dr. Debra Powell, chief of Infectious Diseases Division at Reading Hospital—Tower Health.

“The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and obtaining the vaccine protects you, your family, and your community,” Powell said.

Here’s what you need to know about COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, whether you are eligible for one, and what to do if you were vaccinated with Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.

What is the Purpose of a Booster Shot?

The booster shot provides increased antibody levels to protect against the COVID-19 virus. Powell said it significantly reduces the risk of hospitalization and death.

Why Should I Get a Booster Shot?

Current studies show immunity lasts at least six months, Powell said. With each vaccine you get additional antibodies to keep you protected for longer periods of time.

“Individuals who received the first two doses of the vaccine have significantly lower hospitalization rates and lower instances of mortality compared to those who have not been vaccinated,” Powell said. “Recent reporting shows us that in Pennsylvania, 97% of deaths, 95% of hospitalizations, and 94% of COVID-19 cases were among those that have not been vaccinated.”

Who is Eligible for a Booster Shot?

Currently, eligible individuals include those at high-risk for hospitalization and death from COVID-19, including people over the age of 65, or those 18 and older with an underlying health condition that may impact their immune system. Adults 18 and older who work in high-risk settings such as healthcare facilities, schools, or public transport are also eligible.

“If you are not currently in one of the recommended populations to receive the booster vaccine, please be patient and wait until it is recommended for you,” Powell said.

Those who are eligible can receive their booster shot as soon as six months after their second dose. 

Are the Booster Shots Just for the Pfizer Vaccine?

The FDA has only approved the Pfizer vaccine for booster shots. It is not recommended to mix vaccine manufacturers, Powell said. If you have received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine, additional information regarding a booster shot should be available soon.

Will More Booster Shots be Needed in the Future?

This is an important question that will continue to be reviewed, Powell said.

“I suspect there will be additional shots needed in the future,” she said, “but it will depend on antibody levels and the number of variants that circulate around the world.”

What if I Decide Not to Get the Booster Shot?

“I would strongly encourage eligible individuals to receive the booster vaccine to continue to protect themselves from the COVID-19 virus,” Powell said. “We have seen a decrease in a person’s antibody levels as time passes and we want to be sure we keep everyone safe and healthy and decrease the opportunity for the virus to mutate.”