COVID vaccine: Does having a high level of coronavirus antibody mean you do not need a booster syringe?

LOS ANGELES (KABC) – U.S. regulators released new guidance this week that shortens the time people who received Moderna or Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine have to wait for a booster, and it’s different from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration’s decision on Friday means that Moderna recipients are eligible for a booster after at least five months have passed since their last shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed.

This is in line with new recommendations for recipients of the Pfizer vaccine. Initial Pfizer vaccinations are open to anyone 5 years of age or older. But only Pfizer recipients 12 years and older are eligible for boosters, and earlier this week US health officials said they could get one five months after their last shot.

A booster after receiving a single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine has already been encouraged two months later. However, the changed recommendations can be confusing, and some people have resorted to trying to figure things out on their own.

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Los Angeles resident Tina Connell spoke to Eyewitness News this week and said it̵[ads1]7;s time for her to get the booster, but before she does, she said she wants to check the antibody level.

“I’m here to get an antibody test to see where my levels are,” she said. “I feel that if my antibodies are high enough, I do not need to get the booster.”

This is a tool many hope will give them security. An antibody test determines if your immune system is still making antibodies to the coronavirus.

USC Verdugo Hills pharmacist Elizabeth Khatchaturian said that 95% of the people she has tested have declining antibodies after six months, but not all.

“It’s been 5%,” she said.

So can people with higher antibody levels wait to get their booster syringe?

“It’s something we still do not know,” said Kaiser Permanente, a specialist in infectious diseases, Dr. David Bronstein. “Even after all this time, there is no way to say that this specific level of antibody is going to protect you from infection at this specific rate. We just do not know because there is so much more than antibodies we are thinking of.”

T cells, which play an important part in the immune system, also protect against infection.

Bronstein said we can not measure T cells, but we can measure real-world evidence that gives researchers a strong indication of when vaccine efficacy will begin to decline.

“When you start seeing more and more breakthrough infections, even if they are just mild infections, it tells you that your immunity level is going down,” he said.

Bronstein said that when less viruses circulate, antibody testing may have a place. But he said at this point in the pandemic, get the booster shot when it’s indicated for you.

“Unless you live in a cave somewhere, you will be exposed, and if you do not have that immune response ready to fight it, bad things can happen,” he said.

The antibody test, which cost Connell $ 25, showed that her antibody levels were low, so she said she would get a booster syringe soon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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