Vaccine Booster

I received a single shot of the J&J vaccine in March 2021. While its portrayal in the media and social media has been that of an inferior vaccine, I am pretty happy with its performance. Given the number of times since March that I have been surprised by unmasked strangers in elevators, I presume that I must have been exposed to the Delta variant virus on numerous occasions, but I still never got sick.

It’s important to recognize that a single shot of the J&J vaccine is more effective than a single shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. The reason those two vaccines had higher effectiveness ratings is that all recipients of those vaccines received two doses before they were considered fully vaccinated. It now appears that a second dose of the J&J vaccine raises its effectiveness to somewhere in the range of 95%, even against the much more contagious Delta variant.

It’s also been shown that mixing vaccines and boosters results in good immune responses with no additional risks. For those such as myself who received a dose of J&J vaccine more than two months ago, a second shot of J&J would provide protection that is more than sufficient. However, preliminary research suggests that a booster shot of Pfizer or Moderna might result in substantially higher antibody levels, although whether that would translate to better overall efficacy in the long run remains to be seen. (I.e. beating 95% is pretty tough.)

One consideration that does qualify as a genuine strike against the J&J vaccine is that Pfizer and Moderna have both been much more successful in scaling up production to the massive levels required for vaccinating the entire country, and the rest of the world. Supplies of the J&J vaccine are lower than those of Pfizer and Moderna, so a recipient of the J&J vaccine might end up finding it much easier to switch to a different vaccine for their booster just on the basis of availability.

I received a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine two days ago, to follow up my J&J vaccine from 8 months ago. Side effects have so far been mild, and already I find myself looking forward to two weeks from now, when I’ll be able to worry a bit less about the pandemic.

Right now, anyone who received the J&J vaccine over two months ago is eligible for any booster, and I would recommend getting whichever booster is available in your area. People who received two doses of Pfizer or Moderna can get a booster only if they are in certain vulnerable subpopulations, but it is likely that in a few months, revised guidelines will come out to allow boosters for broader segments of the population.

For further information, please consult with the CDC.

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