Fact Check: No, needing a booster doesn’t mean the COVID-19 vaccine didn’t work

Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 9:34 AM CST
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(KWQC) - As the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began approving booster doses for the COVID-19 vaccine, claims began surfacing that needing a booster means the first round of the vaccine did not work.

That claim is false, according to Janet Hill, chief operating officer for the Rock Island County Health Department.

COVID-19 vaccines are working well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant,” she said.

But, Hill said public health experts are starting to see reduced protection in people who are vaccinated in certain populations, including people older than 65 and frontline workers. Hill said this is due to both the decreasing protection as time passes since being vaccinated, plus the Delta variant being more infectious.

Hill also attributes the need for boosters to the fact that the United States has not reached herd immunity. This is causing the virus to continue spreading throughout many communities.

“With increased exposure comes increased risk of breakthrough infection,” she said. “Breakthrough cases tend to be mild. When more people become fully vaccinated, the virus will have fewer people to infect because more people are protected. Vaccination is how we will end this pandemic. In the meantime, get vaccinated and consider getting a booster shot if you are eligible. And wear your mask when in public.”

Boosters are not uncommon in the vaccine world, Hill said and noted that adults need annual flu shots because there are various strains of the flu each year.

Hill also points towards the Tdap vaccine. Adults need boosters for Tdap every 10 years, or after five years if a person has a severe or dirty wound or burn. Pregnant people also receive the Tdap booster during each pregnancy.

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