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Local expert answers COVID-19 booster shot questions

9NEWS asked a local doctor to explain why COVID booster shots are needed eight months after vaccination.

DENVER — This week the Biden administration could recommend booster shots for Americans who received a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine – before that can happen, the Food and Drug Administration must authorize it.

Many people have questions about COVID, boosters, variants and vaccines, so we took them to UCHealth Senior Medical Director of Infection Prevention, Dr. Michelle Barron.

Question: Why the need for booster shots now?

Answer: “Over time, our bodies can lose again that training in our immune system and we want to make sure that it is ultimately prepared to defend itself against the virus,” Dr. Barron said.

She said new data from multiple studies is being released by Pfizer that points to the need for COVID vaccine booster shots.

Question: How good is the data?

Answer: “The science is good, but it’s not obviously perfect. And Pfizer has submitted this formally to the FDA saying at six to eight months after your initial vaccination is completed that level of protection goes down,” Dr. Barron said.

The effectiveness drops to between 80 and 85% after that six to eight-month period. Which is the reason for boosters after eight months.

Question: How much protection do we need for our immune system to respond?

Answer: “What is the perfect level, how much do you need to protect yourself fully? And we don’t have an answer for that yet,” Dr. Barron said.

Question: Why not boosters for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine?

Answer: “They have a six-month lead on us in terms of being able to collect data over time looking at what’s available. You can’t assume what happens with Pfizer and Moderna is going to happen with J&J because it’s a total different way of how it stimulates your immune system. I suspect that it too will require some kind of a booster in the future but I think they wanted to know again what’s the trajectory,” Dr. Barron said.

The World Health Organization is calling for a moratorium on booster shots until the end of September. They said available doses should go to countries that are behind in vaccinations.