Mercer Island MD explains why we’ll likely need yearly COVID booster shots

Nov 22, 2021, 10:55 AM
A patient waits to be called for a COVID-19 vaccination booster shot outside a pharmacy in a grocery store. U.S. regulators opened up COVID-19 booster shots to all adults, Friday, Nov. 19, letting them choose another dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have authorized a COVID-19 booster shot for all U.S. adults, regardless of pre-existing conditions.

Anyone 18 or older can now choose either a Pfizer or Moderna booster six months after their last dose. For anyone who got the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the wait already was two months. People can mix-and-match boosters from any company.

Stine says ‘no, thank you’ to changing definition of fully vaccinated

After only being available for certain age groups or those at high-risk, what changed?

“I think it raises a fairly provocative question, at this point, is what does it mean to be fully immunized, if we’re now suggesting that people need boosters?” Dr. Gordon Cohen, MD, said on Seattle’s Morning News. “Now if you think back to when we first started talking about COVID, before there was a vaccine, there was already talk about people getting an infection with COVID, and then they would have an antibody response that would begin to drop at roughly 30 days after they had the infection.”

“But now, we’ve started giving vaccines, and the original studies that were done by Pfizer and Moderna were done on two-shot vaccinations, and they weren’t followed for very long because there was some urgency to getting the vaccines out,” he continued. “Now the question is risen: How long do these antibody responses to the vaccine last?”

There is science now to back it up, Cohen explained.

At a conference a week ago in San Antonio on vaccine development, Cohen says a study was presented that looked at antibody levels in people who had received the Pfizer vaccine, done on 787 health care workers in Italy, ranging in age from 21 to 75. Their antibody levels were measured before vaccination, after the second dose, and then at one, three, and six months after the second shot.

“The results demonstrated that antibody levels dropped by more than 50% from peak by six months post-vaccination,” Cohen said. “So, what does it mean to be fully vaccinated?”

“You get your two shots, you think you’re good. And then suddenly, six months later, your antibody levels are half of what they were at the peak response,” he clarified.

KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross asked if that means we’ll all get COVID eventually and just have to hope it’s not bad enough to send us to the hospital?

“I don’t know that that’s necessarily true, rather I think the bigger question is — and I think this has been the concern expressed by many people — are we going to be getting this vaccine for the rest of our lives?,” Cohen replied. “Data like this, although it’s a relatively short period of time, certainly you could draw the conclusion that, yes, we will need an annual COVID vaccine just in order to boost our antibodies, in order to deal with the falling response to the vaccine.”

State Sec. of Health: ‘Slight increase’ in breakthrough cases shows need for boosters

Knowing what we know now about how immunity can fade over time, and how the booster itself may not be perfect, Dr. Cohen’s bottom line advice is that he believes the vaccine is safe.

“That’s been proven over and over and over again,” he said. “We’ve given it to tens of millions of people worldwide, and there’s no significant downside to it. Secondly, the vaccine clearly reduces the severity of illness for people who get it. And thirdly, it dramatically reduces the incidence of long-COVID, which can be really detrimental to those who have it.”

“So, on balance, I believe in the vaccine, I believe it’s safe, and I believe it’s efficacious. Although I think we’re going to be getting it on an annual basis in order to keep our antibody levels up.” Dr. Cohen said. “My personal recommendation, as a physician, is that people should get the vaccine.”

Find a vaccine or booster appointment near you with the state’s Vaccine Locator tool, or call 833-VAX-HELP.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Dave Ross on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dave rossTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave's Commentary

Dave Ross

“Homosexuality in America,” Life, 26 June 1964, pp. 66-80....
Dave Ross

Ross: How the suburbs guard ‘birds-and-the-bees’ chatter

I saw a copy of LIFE magazine on the living room coffee table that featured a two-page spread captioned “Homosexuality in America.”
19 hours ago
Dave Ross

Ross: Have Seattleites gone soft on crime?

The Seattle Police Department recently came out with some advice on what to do if a burglar breaks in while you’re at home. The advice… is to get out, ASAP.
2 days ago
Governor Kevin Stitt (R-OK) speaks during a roundtable at the White House (Getty Images)...
Dave Ross

Ross: Why Oklahoma’s stance on abortion will echo throughout the country

12 states have trigger laws that take effect if Roe v Wade is overturned – and Oklahoma is one of them.
3 days ago
Katie Wussler, a program coordinator at Mother & Child Education Center, checks the lot number on a...
Dave Ross

Ross: Baby formula shortage puts new mothers in difficult spot

I’m having trouble accepting that the US is dealing with a baby formula shortage – especially when the main advice is do NOT try to make your own.
6 days ago
Dave Ross

Ross: Are vasectomies the best form of birth control?

A Tweet caught my attention because it was a sketch for a short story about a world where abortions aren’t necessary.
7 days ago
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) (Getty Images)...
Dave Ross

Ross: A dip in the stock market asks us to look at our savvy non-investments

The way stocks have been melting over the past 16 months, those of us with the courage to open the monthly statement are wondering how low can they go…
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Mercer Island MD explains why we’ll likely need yearly COVID booster shots