Health Canada has approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna booster shots for individuals 18 years and older. The booster shot is designed to help people maintain their protection six months after receiving two doses of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine.
Questions and concerns about eligibility for the booster shot are circulating. In an interview with Skedline, Sandra Gerges, a professor and program coordinator with the Pharmacy Technician Program at Humber College, provided some answers.
“Booster shots are for additional protection and that additional protection is thought to be needed if a long period of time has passed since your primary series. After six months it’s believed that your immune response is starting to come down,” Gerges said.
There is a difference between a third dose and the booster shot and Gerges said it’s an important differentiating factor. A third dose is meant for anyone who is immunocompromised and the first two doses did not mount a good enough immune respond in them.
“Boosters are not new in vaccine and immunology. All the vaccines we’ve received as a child — Prevnar, PVC, Rotavirus — require boosters and later on when the child is five they’ll be required to receive it. This applies the same way to the COVID-19 booster shots,” Gerges said.
The Moderna booster shot is a half dose of the regular 50 ug vaccine, while the Pfizer-BioNTech booster is identical to previous doses and has not changed.
Gerges recommends consulting with your family doctor if you’re feeling conflicted about receiving the booster.
Gerges recently received the Moderna booster shot. In addition to her position at Humber College, she works part-time at the neonatal intensive care unit at Sunnybrook Hospital. She said with such a high-risk job, she’s thankful to be able to receive the booster shot.
For Dana Sowa, a PhD student at McMaster University studying Biochemistry and researching DNA repair proteins as a target for antimicrobial development, the arrival of the booster shot does not come as a surprise.
“The booster shots are the same vaccinations people have received in their initial first and second doses. They just provide your body a ‘refresher course’ on how to protect itself from COVID-19,” Sowa said.
Sowa said vaccines are used as preventative tools and they prepare the body by stimulating antibody production. With high-risk diseases like COVID-19, our body needs specific antibodies that the vaccine helps create.
“It’s so important to keep yourself educated by keeping up with news and updates from reliable sources. Misinformation is everywhere,” Sowa said.