‘Let Science Lead’: Charlotte Specialist Answers Top Questions About Vaccine Booster Shots

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

By Emiene Wright

August 25, 2021

Charlotte, North Carolina infectious disease expert Dr. Lewis McCurdy clears the air on who should get a booster, and when.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued guidance recommending booster shots for people with compromised immune systems who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This includes people who have had organ transplants or are taking immuno-suppressant drugs. 

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Dr. Lewis McCurdy, specialty director of Infectious diseases at Atrium Health, spoke with Cardinal & Pine from Charlotte to answer common questions surrounding the booster shots. His advice? 

  • Don’t panic. By mid-to-late September, it’s expected that all fully vaccinated people will be eligible for a third dose, or booster.
  • It’s recommended to get the booster shot eight months after the first vaccine series was completed. That means both the first and second shot. 
  • The initial vaccine series still offers protection. However, the duration of the antibodies it generates is unknown and studies have shown there is a decline in the antibodies over time. Therefore, the booster shot is recommended as a failsafe.
  • Currently, the CDC only recommends boosters for people who took the full series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. 
  • Johnson & Johnson recipients should wait for guidance on getting a booster shot. Since Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were made available first, they are ahead in booster approvals. J&J recipients should wait on research results. Until the benefits and risks are more clear, they should hold off on booster shots for now.
  • Don’t mix vaccines if possible. It’s recommended that Pfizer vaccine recipients take Pfizer booster shots, while Moderna recipients should stick with Moderna boosters. However, if the booster for your original vaccine series is unavailable in your area, then take the other booster.
  • If you haven’t gotten vaccinated, it’s of paramount importance to get vaccinated ASAP.

According to data from the Department of Health and Humans Services, the entire state of North Carolina is ranked as having a high Covid transmission rate. In Mecklenburg, just under half of the population is fully vaccinated, mainly due to the county’s large numbers of youths which are as yet ineligible for vaccination. This is more reason for every eligible adult to get the vaccine, McCurdy said.

“We’re seeing full hospitals,” due to the increase in Covid admissions from the unvaccinated, McCurdy said. “Given the volume of vaccines administered, its safety is proven and there clearly is benefit from the first full vaccine series.”


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