Home LIFESTYLE If the new COVID variant is resistant to immunity, are the vaccines...

If the new COVID variant is resistant to immunity, are the vaccines and boosters worth it?

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After seeing reports of an increase in cases of COVID-19, George Dragush, 83, of Kansas City, Kansas, had pharmacist Dan Reif give him his second booster shot on Friday, July 15, 2022, at The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, 6523 6523 Parallel Parkway in Kansas City, Kansas. The pharmacy offers free, no appointment-needed, walk-in booster shots, as well as testing for COVID-19.

Joseph Hernandez
The Kansas City Star

COVID-19 cases are rising in Kansas City. The BA.5 variant is reinfecting people who’ve had COVID in the past and local doctors are warning the community that the risk of catching this virus in public is much higher than it was a few months ago.

The variant may be able to better evade the antibodies caused by previous infection or vaccines. Built-up immunity in your body may not be able to prevent infection if you’ve already had it.

IS GETTING THE VACCINE STILL WORTH IT?

Dr. Sarah Boyd, infectious disease physician on Saint Luke’s COVID-19 Response Team said it’s still important to get vaccinated and boosted even if the new variant is resistant to immunity. The vaccines are still effective for avoiding severe illness and death from COVID-19.

Dr. Boyd said that in addition to the initial vaccine doses, receiving a booster increases protection from severe illness and death even more.

While the omicron variants, including BA.5, spread more easily than previous variants, she said the vaccine’s goal is to limit your risk of dying or developing a severe illness if you become infected.

So even if you can still get infected with COVID-19 after being vaccinated, your chances of getting sick enough to need to go to the hospital are lower.

“When someone is naturally infected with COVID-19, the immune response to that infection can vary, while vaccines provide a predicted response in antibodies due to the set dose in the vaccine,” Dr. Boyd said.

SHOULD YOU WAIT FOR THE NEW VACCINE OR GET BOOSTED NOW?

Given the higher amount of infections currently in Kansas City, Dr. Boyd said that you should go ahead and get that booster now if you’re eligible.

Dr. Nathan Bahr, infectious disease physician with the University of Kansas Medical System, agreed.

If you are up-to-date with the recommended booster vaccines, more information may be available this fall about reformulated vaccines that could be more effective against newer variants.

“In the meantime, I would be doing everything I can to avoid getting sick from COVID,” Dr. Bahr said.

If you get boosted now, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be eligible for the new vaccine when it comes out: you could get both, Dr. Bahr noted.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD PEOPLE DO?

Both Dr. Boyd and Dr. Bahr recommended the same steps: wearing masks in public settings, washing your hands, attending events outdoors when possible, avoiding large gatherings and getting vaccinated.

“We know some tools that work pretty darn well for COVID,” Dr. Bahr said.

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