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How Does The COVID Booster Affect Immune Response To The Virus?

How Does The COVID Booster Affect Immune Response To The Virus?

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, medical scientists were in a race to figure out a way to hinder the virus’ severity as well as how fast it spread. This was done in combination with governments by imposing mandates around social distancing, wearing protective face coverings, avoiding contact, and creating vaccines. In the past, vaccines have been highly effective against a plethora of different viral infections, and this has been the best option with COVID-19, too.

Since the human immune system is not enough on its own for many people to overcome the virus, vaccines are the next best thing. With the creation of the vaccines came better avoidance of high death rates and severe infections that caused people to be hospitalized, putting strain on the health care system. As the two-dose vaccine schedule was announced, millions of people across the globe raced to get theirs in the hopes that it would keep them and their families safe from the virus.

As more research was conducted on the efficacy of the vaccines, it was soon found that protection waned following the second dose. While this isn’t abnormal for some vaccines, it led medical researchers to the conclusion that a booster dose is required to maintain protection against the virus. But how does the COVID booster affect immune response to the virus, exactly? Read on to learn more.


Image by Steven Cornfield on Unsplash: How long after the COVID-19 primary series can I get the booster vaccine?


What is the difference between a booster shot and a regular COVID-19 shot?

The COVID-19 vaccine is a type of mRNA vaccine. These vaccines encourage the body to create a specific type of protein that elicits an immune response. When an immune response is provoked, the body makes antibodies, which are designed to fight off infection if the COVID-19 virus makes its way into the body. Both the regular vaccine and the booster shot are mRNA and designed to elicit the same response.

Unfortunately, the primary schedule vaccines don’t offer lifelong protection, and that is why the booster is required. The difference between the two types is the dose. The regular vaccine has a higher dose than the booster, as the booster shot is only meant to increase the effectiveness of the original vaccine and not necessarily act as a regular dose evoking the same immune response.

Why is a booster dose of vaccine required?

As mentioned above, COVID-19 two-dose vaccine protection eventually dies down, so to speak. That means that even though it encourages the body to create the antibodies needed to fight off the infection, its strength wanes over time. When that happens, a person who is fully vaccinated may not be as thoroughly protected as they were shortly after they got the vaccine. This is where the booster comes in.

The booster itself is designed to increase the ability to the vaccine to do its job by reintroducing more of the mRNA into the body’s system. Essentially, the booster shot for COVID-19 is designed to lengthen the time period in which someone is protected against the viral infection.

How does the booster improve immune response?

The booster shot improves the immune response by increasing the reactogenicity of the vaccine. Reactogenicity is a vaccine’s ability to produce the proper reactions within the immune system that are designed to fight off infection. These reactions present similarly to symptoms of viral infection, such as fever. While these side effects obviously aren’t enjoyable, they are actually a sign that the immune system has kicked into action and is doing what it needs to do on a cellular level.

In addition to the initial immune reaction, the booster has also been shown to impact other types of immune cells that help to prevent severe disease from COVID-19. The specific cells affected, known as T-cells, were shown to be increased in people following the booster, providing even further protection.

Other reports have found that the booster shot also plays a role in the activation of memory B-cells, which are immune cells that recognize pathogens. These cells remain in the body and wait for the signal that a particular viral infection has made its way into the body so that they can create new antibodies against the same virus. The booster gives these B-cells the alert they need to start making antibodies. 


Image by CDC on Unsplash: Why is a booster dose of vaccine required?


How long does it take for the COVID booster to become effective?

When it comes to the regular two-dose schedule of vaccines against COVID-19, experts found that two weeks following the second dose is when a person could consider themselves to be fully vaccinated. As the protection wanes over the following six months, it has been recommended that a booster shot be taken to improve its effects.

Unlike the initial doses, researchers aren’t exactly sure how long it takes for the booster to be effective. For the body to create new antibodies, days or even weeks need to pass. While there have been few experiments to determine how long it takes, experts believe that it could be similar to other vaccines in that by the second week, a person should have a significant increase in antibodies against COVID-19.

The booster shot has shown to be effective against COVID-19 in the sense that it will hinder severe disease. However, like the other vaccines, a person is not immune to the virus simply due to vaccination. Because of this, immune health in general should also be taken care of through maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.


Featured image by the CDC on Unsplash

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