Covid Booster

Nurse Faith Chepngetich administers the Moderna vaccine to Raphael Shem at Kencom bus station on December 23. Those who are fully vaccinated can now get booster shots.

| Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

What you need to know about the Covid-19 booster shot

What you need to know:

  • Studies show that immunity from the vaccine wanes after some time.

The Health ministry on Christmas day gave the green light for the administration of booster shots in the country for people who were fully vaccinated six months ago.

Kenya becomes the fifth country in Africa to offer the additional protection after the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed it on October 15.

The World Health Organisation is yet to give its word, citing vaccine inequity between the rich and poor nations, and the need for more data to justify booster doses.

“While vaccine supply is growing, it is not evenly distributed. Lower income countries have had far less access, and face unpredictable and irregular supply. Within countries, equity considerations support improving coverage of the primary vaccination series in high risk populations as the top priority use of vaccine doses,” said the WHO on its December 22 update on booster doses.

Even as evidence mounts on the need for booster shots, studies from countries where vaccination started earlier shows that immunity from the vaccine wanes after some time.

“Vaccine booster dose policy decisions should be based on evidence of individual and public health benefit and obligations to secure global equity in vaccine access as a means to minimise health impacts and transmission, and thereby reduce the risk of variants and prolongation of the pandemic,” says the WHO.

  • What really is a booster shot?

This is a Covid-19 vaccine shot given to fully vaccinated individuals whose immunity from the double shot (or single shot in the case of Johnson and Johnson) has decreased over time.

For instance, if you received two shots of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, you can boost your immunity by getting a third dose of the same vaccine type or a different one, as guided by your healthcare provider.

A booster shot should not be confused with an additional shot, because, unlike the booster shot, is mainly given to people whose immunity could be low, like people living with HIV, regardless after they have received their second doses.

A booster shot therefore can be administered to anyone who has been fully vaccinated and has had the vaccine in their body for at least six months.

When does one get a booster shot?

The Health ministry’s directive indicates that this should be given six months after one has been fully vaccinated.

This is because studies have shown that the vaccine protection does not last for a lifetime and its strength could lessen with time.

“Emerging data consistently show a decline in vaccine effectiveness against SARS-CoV2 infection (the virus that causes Covid-19) and Covid-19 with time since vaccination, and more significant decline in older adults. This evidence is mostly based on observational studies that may be subject to confounding factors,” explains the WHO in its latest situational report.

  • Why do you need a booster shot?

Just as its name suggests, it is meant to boost your immunity.

The regulatory authorities that have backed the booster shot administration have done so after studies indicated that immunity from the Covid-19 vaccine wanes.

Israel was the first country to prove this assertion as it had most of its population vaccinated, but when the Delta variant swept across the world, it still recorded more cases of Covid-19.

The Israel study was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, the Lancet, which showed the comparison between just two doses and a booster shot.

“Compared with two doses of the vaccine administered at least five months before, adding a third dose was estimated to be 93 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19-related admission to hospital, 92 per cent in preventing severe disease, and 81 per cent in preventing COVID-19-related death, as of seven or more days after the third dose.”

This means that a booster dose is an additional protection since the coronavirus continues to mutate and the new mutations, like the Omicron variant, may escape vaccines.

With the rise of the new variants, a recent study conducted on primates by the U.S National Institute of Health showed that the Moderna vaccine booster dose could protect against upcoming variants.

“Our results suggest that Covid-19 booster vaccines may significantly increase immunity against the virus,” said Robert Seder of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in a statement.

Adding: “Boosters may prevent severe illness or death, particularly among older adults and those with pre-existing health conditions. They could also potentially limit mild infection and transmission.”

  • Where can I get a booster shot?

Just like the first and second doses, the booster shots can be administered in designated areas by the Health ministry.

As advised earlier by the Ministry of Health, registration for Covid-19 vaccination schedules can be done online using the website https://portal.health.go.ke/.

  • Will I get any side effects after taking the booster shots?

Yes, you will still get side effects but the reaction even from primary doses of Covid-19 vaccines is received differently by different people.

Your side effects may not be the same as your neighbour’s or friend’s.

The CDC lists the following as common side effects after receiving a booster shot: pain, redness and swelling on the arm and headache, fatigue, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea in the rest of the body.

  • What are the recommended timelines for receiving booster shots?

Apart from the people who received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, all other booster doses can only be taken six months since you were certified as fully vaccinated.

The CDC indicates that those who took the J&J single dose vaccine can get a booster dose two months after vaccination.


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