Hawaii disease expert says booster shots are working well

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — New data continues to come in on both the effectiveness of vaccines against the delta variant and how a potential booster shot rollout could help prevent infection. An infectious disease expert says places like Blaisdell and Pier 2 are critical to getting booster shots into arms.

Israel first made booster shots available on July 30.

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A month later, data from the 1.1 million people to get their booster shot is promising.

“What they found is that the boosters are producing about a tenfold reduction in the level of breakthrough infections, and also a tenfold reduction in the level of severe illness from those breakthrough infections,” East-West Center senior fellow Dr. Tim Brown said.

That could be critical to stopping community spread of the virus, which accounts for 93% of known transmission over the past month in the islands.

Studies now show the mRNA vaccines offer about 50-60% protection from delta infection according to Dr. Brown, although protection from severe illness is much higher.

“Later studies on a larger population base, and now that delta is dominant, are showing about a 50% to 60% level of protection,” Dr. Brown said. “So there’s no question that we’re seeing decreasing levels of protection associated with the vaccinations. That’s the reason everybody started to talk about boosters.”

Booster shots would be designed to increase antibodies against COVID.

“There are two types of immunity we’re talking about here,” Dr. Brown said. “The first is immunity against infection. That’s what we’re seeing wane. That’s what seems to be going down over time. The second is immunity against severe illness and hospitalization. That one fortunately is holding up very, very well over time, We’re seeing only minor decreases in that over time.”

Pending FDA approval, the CDC is planning on distributing booster shots on September 20th starting 8 months after a person’s second vaccine dose.

Brown says age matters less than rolling out the booster shots as fast as possible.

“I think we need to go with something similar to what we did before,” he said. “We need to get them into arms as quickly as we can.”

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The CDC says that those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will also likely need a booster shot at some point.

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