Jennifer Johnston, MDOver the last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC for short) has recommended COVID19 booster vaccines for some people. Let’s break it down!

1. What is a “booster” vaccine? A booster vaccine is a vaccine given to help “boost” a person’s protection from a disease. Another word for this protection is called immunity. This vaccine comes after the first vaccines for a disease. Your body has cells that are constantly policing your body for bacteria, viruses and fungus. Your body makes antibodies to have a memory of these infections. If your antibodies see an infection again, your body will know to attack the cells and kill the infection. Each disease that you encountered, either by infection or vaccine, has caused your body to make an antibody to that disease. A vaccine teaches antibodies what to look for when scanning the body for dangerous infection. A vaccine gives you immunity (protection) without infection from the disease. For example, a measles vaccine does not GIVE you measles but does PROTECT you from measles. However, there are situations in which you need more doses of a vaccine to make sure you have immunity/protection. This is when a booster vaccine may help. A booster vaccine helps your body make more antibodies to a disease.

2. Why a COVID19 Vaccine Booster? 3% of Americans are “immunocompromised”. This means that their immune system is more fragile. The immune system is the part of a person’s body that makes antibodies and fights infection. A person that has a weakened immune system may not make enough antibodies to give them protection from infection. For example, a person that is immunocompromised can get very sick from COVID 19 infection even if they have received a vaccine. A booster vaccine would give extra immunity to those who need it.

3. Who is considered immunocompromised? For now the CDC recommends the following groups have a COVID 19 vaccine booster:
• People receiving treatment for cancer
• Organ transplant recipients
• Stem Cell Transplant recipients
• People with Primary immunodeficiency disorders
• People with advanced or untreated HIV infection
• People receiving treatment with immunosuppressive drugs such as high dose steroid

4. Which vaccine groups has the CDC approved a booster vaccine for? For now, CDC recommends people who qualify and have had Pfizer or Moderna vaccines receive a booster vaccine of the same type (if possible). The Johnson & Johnson (Jansen) group has not yet been approved but will likely be approved soon.

5. When can I have my booster of the COVID19 vaccine? If you qualify, at least 4 week from your second vaccine.

6. What about people who are not immunocompromised? The future will tell us. COVID has taught me (and hopefully you too) to be thoughtful and flexible in my actions. I do expect that everyone will be recommended a COVID vaccine 19 booster in the future. It is also possible that as the virus mutates we will need to change our vaccines to keep up with the variants.

7. When will Clearwater Valley Health have the booster vaccine available? This should be available in the next few weeks. Our public health department (North Central District) will give us further direction.

8. Questions? Please do not hesitate to call us at Clearwater Valley Health – 208-476-5777

Our community has seen a lot of COVID cases over the past 2 weeks. Unfortunately, with more infection comes more suffering in our community. If you are vaccinated, you are less likely to spread the virus. If the virus can keep spreading (and has something called a reservoir) it will continue to not only thrive, but it will mutate into different variants. We know that our current variant (the delta variant) is much more contagious than the original COVID19 infection we saw last winter. Consider the virtue “stop the damage and then clean up”. To stop the damage, we need to protect our community from infection. Please continue wearing a mask indoors, washing hands, social distancing and stay home if ill. You can be tested for COVID19 at our testing tent outside of the CVH hospital. The tent is open Monday – Friday, 8a to 4p.

If you have not been vaccinated for COVID19, please consider it. I and my partners are open to your discussion and concerns. Every one of us (including you, the reader) have the same goal of a healthy and happy community. Let’s make it happen!