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The Truth About COVID-19 Boosters

Maui county revised the county’s definition of “fully vaccinated” to include a booster shot for eligible individuals effective January 24. Patrons of restaurants, bars, and gyms must show proof of a booster shot if eligible or a negative COVID-19 test to dine or workout indoors. This revision only applies to Maui county. Currently, other countries including Israel and France require boosters to access public spaces due to the importance of boosters.

Why are boosters important? 

Certain vaccines do not give you immunity for a lifetime. Waning immunity is defined as the loss of protective antibodies over time. COVID-19 vaccines are working well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, but vaccine-induced immunity can wane over time. Booster shots are not a new concept and are key in preventing the return or contraction of certain diseases like Chickenpox, HPV, Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis. The latest data show that booster doses significantly increase protection against the Omicron variant. Vaccination occurs earlier than early treatment, which is important since the Omicron mutations make the virus resistant to some monoclonal antibody treatments. For the highest level of protection, those eligible should receive a booster dose. Not sure who is eligible? See below for more information.

What data is available on boosters? 

The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) provides data on the average weekly incidence of cases for unvaccinated individuals compared with fully vaccinated persons with and without booster doses. Here is data on COVID-19 cases in the United States from October through November in 2021:

  • 1,108,298 unvaccinated
  • 650,820 vaccinated (no booster dose)
  • 19,954 fully vaccinated with booster dose

Fully vaccinated individuals who received a booster dose were less likely to contract COVID-19.

A CDC study found vaccine effectiveness was most effective after three doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines in preventing COVID-19 emergency department and urgent care visits. Researchers looked at hospitalizations and emergency room and urgent care center visits in ten states from August 2021 to January 2022 and found protection dropped from 94 percent during the Delta wave to 82 percent during the Omicron wave. A third dose of mRNA vaccine was at least 90 percent effective at preventing hospitalizations for COVID-19, during both Delta- and Omicron- predominant periods.

From April 4 through December 25, 2021, researchers looked at COVID-19 death rates among unvaccinated and fully vaccinated individuals, with and without boosters. During this time period, a total of 6,812,040 COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated persons and 2,866,517 cases among fully vaccinated persons were reported. This study found COVID-19 cases were lowest among fully vaccinated persons with a booster dose, compared with fully vaccinated persons without a booster dose, and much lower than rates among unvaccinated persons. Another study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that individuals who received a booster dose are more protected than those with just the primary series of mRNA vaccines alone.

Who is eligible for a booster?

All Hawai‘i residents 18 and older should receive a booster dose if it has been at least two months since their initial Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or five months after completing their initial Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech series. Youth ages 12-17 should also receive a booster dose at least five months after completing their primary Pfizer vaccine series. This graphic is available in 20 languages at hawaiicovid19.com/translations.

Can you mix and match vaccines?

The CDC recommends that people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine get a Pfizer or Moderna booster. Individuals who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine can get the same booster as their initial vaccine, but are allowed to mix and match vaccines—with the exception of adolescents aged 12-17 who are only eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

Where can I receive a booster dose? 

A list of vaccine providers can be found online at hawaiicovid19.com/vaccine. Need help registering or need the vaccine brought to you? Call (808) 586-8332; Available weekdays from 7:45 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Interpreters are available to be brought onto the phone line to assist in your language needs.

Boosters and vaccinations will not completely eradicate COVID-19, but is the best tool to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death. While it is possible to still get COVID-19 even if you are boosted, your risk is significantly less than those who are not boosted or vaccinated. There have been rare cases in which vaccinated and even boosted individuals become hospitalized, so it is important to not disregard the need for other precautions. Vaccinations, coupled with safety precautions such as proper mask use, proper hygiene, and social distancing, offer you and your ‘ohana the most protection.

Thank you for doing your part,

The HIPHI Team

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