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Vaccine researcher explains why healthy people need a 3rd COVID vaccine shot

Tens of thousands in Louisiana overdue for second dose of Moderna & Pfizer vaccines
Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 6:22 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Less than a week after the CDC gave the green light for moderately and severely immunocompromised people to get a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, the Biden administration is expected to announce that even healthy recipients of the MRNA vaccines will need booster shots less than a year after being fully vaccinated.

Dr. Lisa Morici is a Tulane School of Medicine microbiologist and vaccine researcher.

“And that time period will probably be eight months,” said Morici. “I don’t think the news is entirely unexpected. We knew that the pandemic was going to be a marathon and not a sprint.”

The highly contagious Delta variant continues to drive up COVID-19 infections.

“We know that immunity naturally wanes or weakens over time, so the farther out we get from the vaccines we expect our antibody levels to come down and so by giving an additional dose what that will do is that will help maintain protection in those individuals who are vaccinated against severe disease over a more extended period of time and it will also hopefully cut down on the breakthrough infections,” said Morici.

In Louisiana, less than 40% of the people are fully vaccinated against the virus and according to data FOX 8 received from the La. Department of Health, 47,901 people are overdue for the second dose of the Moderna vaccine and 45, 914 for the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Morici said with high levels of virus in communities and hospitals strained because of COVID patients, the federal government has no choice but to take steps aimed at reducing the spread of the virus.

“As long as this virus is circulating in our communities and overwhelming our hospitals, we have to take steps to get that virus under control and when these vaccines were rolled out we saw the cases plummet, so we knew the vaccines were effective. But what’s happening is, you know, globally the world is not yet vaccinated against this virus and so it’s going to continue to mutate,” she said.

But the World Health Organization thinks the most vulnerable around the world should be vaccinated before large populations in some countries get a third dose of the vaccines.

Maria Van Kerkhove is with WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme.

“It’s a global problem. We need a global solution. It’s not only about one country. We have a limited amount of vaccine. There’s a limited amount of production. We need to use those doses. That is epidemiologically sound. That is morally sound. That is economically sound. That is scientifically sound. And that really is focusing on those who are most at risk. We have a disease right now that is killing people and it doesn’t need to be killing people. So, we have tools right now. This is a problem that has a solution. So we need to use those vaccines, uh, in the most appropriate way possible around the world,” she said.

Children in the U.S. already get some vaccines that require more than one shot and now multiple doses of the coronavirus vaccine are expected to be recommended for the masses.

“So, typically what we see is that vaccines that are non-living or non-replicating which are what these COVID vaccines are, they typically do require booster doses or more than two doses to achieve long-term protection,” said Morici.

No recommendation has been made yet by federal health agencies about additional shots for people who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Morici says that could change.

“So, Johnson & Johnson is conducting clinical trials as we speak on a two-dose regimen, so they’re testing whether or not the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe and effective as a second dose,” she said.

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