Maximizing COVID-19 protections with booster shots
The scientific community has been working diligently throughout the pandemic to develop ways to protect against and treat COVID-19. To date, vaccination has prevented hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 deaths. Booster shots are an additional preventative measure people can take to further reduce the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
As of February 18, 2022, approximately 93 million Americans have received their booster doses, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here’s what you should know about booster eligibility as well as effectiveness, based on the latest research:
The CDC first recommended booster shots for certain groups at the highest risk for COVID-19 in late September 2021. Eligibility criteria has since expanded to include everyone 12 years and older who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and everyone 18 years and older who received the Moderna vaccine or Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.
Those who received the J&J/Janssen vaccine should wait at least two months before getting a booster, and those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines should wait at least five months. Adults can get the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna booster, even if they received a different vaccine in their primary vaccination series; people 12–17 years old currently may only get a Pfizer-BioNTech booster.
Establishing effectiveness among the general population
Multiple recent studies underscore the protections booster shots offer. The CDC analyzed data from 25 states to assess COVID-19 incidence and death rates among unvaccinated adults and fully vaccinated adults, with and without boosters. The data revealed that in October and November 2021, in the midst of the Delta variant’s dominance, unvaccinated people had 13.9 and 53.2 times the risk of infection with and death from COVID-19, respectively, than fully vaccinated people with a booster. In this same period, unvaccinated people had 4.0 and 12.7 times the risk of infection and death as compared to those fully vaccinated without a booster.
As the Omicron variant emerged in December 2021, incidence of COVID-19 in unvaccinated individuals was 4.9 times higher than those vaccinated with a booster and 2.8 times higher than those vaccinated without a booster. The CDC also found that boosters had the highest impact in those aged 50–64 and in those over 65.
Another study from the CDC examined vaccine effectiveness in preventing COVID-19-associated emergency department (ED) and urgent care (UC) visits as well as hospitalizations. The data indicated that during the Delta variant’s predominance, vaccine effectiveness against ED and UC encounters was 86% for those who had their second dose between 14 and 179 days prior, 76% for those who had their second dose 180 days prior or more, and 94% for those who received a booster at least 14 days prior. During this time, vaccine effectiveness against hospitalizations was 90% for those 14 to 179 days out from their second dose, 81% for those 180 days or more out from their second dose, and 94% for those at least 14 days out from their booster.
As Omicron became the predominant variant, vaccine effectiveness waned overall but remained highest among those who received a booster. Vaccine effectiveness against hospitalizations was 81% for those 14 to 179 days out from their second dose, 57% for those 180 days or more out from their second dose, and 90% for those at least 14 days out from their booster.
A separate study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) supports the CDC’s findings. Researchers found that while booster doses were less effective against Omicron than Delta, those with boosters were significantly less likely to be infected with COVID-19 than unvaccinated people and vaccinated people with two doses.
These studies demonstrate a couple of important points about vaccination. First, completion of a primary COVID-19 vaccine series provides significant protection against severe disease and death. Second, COVID-19 boosters have provided additional protection against severe disease, even during the Omicron surge.
Advancing COVID-19 knowledge
Allscripts is proud to contribute to ongoing efforts to study COVID-19 and its effects. Our Veradigm business unit is a founding member of the COVID-19 Research Database, a conglomerate offering government and academic researchers rapid access to real-world data (RWD). Veradigm is also a research partner for the COVID-19 Patient Recovery Alliance, a collaborative effort to study long COVID and advocate for affected patients, by analyzing electronic health records.