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Virginia health leaders address possible skepticism following booster roll-out announcement

Virginia health leaders address possible skepticism following booster roll-out announcement
Posted at 10:18 PM, Aug 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-19 22:18:43-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- In a telebriefing Thursday, Virginia health leaders addressed the effectiveness of the COVID vaccine and the Commonwealth's plan for the roll-out of booster shots soon.

"No vaccine is 100% effective, and no vaccine lasts forever," said Virginia's Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula.

Dr. Avula said amid an ongoing review of the COVID vaccine, there were three emerging trends.

One trend was that the vaccine remained very effective against severe consequences of the virus-like hospitalization and death. However, another trend showed that the vaccine was showing a decrease in effectiveness against the delta variant and that it becomes less effective over time.

But Dr. Avula said that didn’t come as a surprise.

"This idea that the effectiveness of the vaccine starts to wane over time is inherent to vaccine science. We know that from lots of different types of vaccines. I mean, it's part of why we get a new flu vaccine every year," Dr. Avula said.

While some vaccines do produce longer-lasting immunity, Dr. Avula said the prevalence of the COVID virus in communities played into this as well.

"In the face of an extremely prevalent virus that continues to change, I think it's reasonable that we that we adopt boosters to make sure that our protection stays strong," Dr. Avula said.

VCU Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Dr. Richard Wenzel echoed that sentiment.

"Now that we know that the antibody levels go down after a period of time, we know that some of those people will not be as well protected, it makes sense to consider a booster," said Dr. Wenzel.

He said a booster will prime the immune system to respond very quickly to something it's seen before to better protect you if exposed.

But Dr. Wenzel added that the most important thing was that people get vaccinated in the first place, putting into perspective the gravity of this pandemic by comparing the U.S. COVID death toll to that of the 1918 Spanish Flu.

"Here we are 100 years later, we're the same number, when we have, you know, rapid response teams, ICU protocols, expertise, drugs, and now vaccine," said Dr. Wenzel.

When asked to address possible skepticism over getting the vaccine now due to the inclusion of a booster dose, Dr. Avula pointed to the trends.

"I think that's where we just have to keep going back to what is happening in real life, which is that we're seeing cases skyrocket, we're seeing hospitalizations increase, and the vast majority of that is happening in unvaccinated people," Dr. Avula said.

Several agencies, like the Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Disease and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, still need to sign off on the plan for boosters.

If the plan gets approved and boosters begin on September 20 as estimated, Dr. Avula said people will be available for their booster eight months after their second vaccination dose.