Loudoun Co. health director on COVID-19 vaccinations, possible booster shots

The health director in Loudoun County, Virginia, told WTOP that the expected recommendation that people get a COVID-19 vaccine booster will probably make the vaccines look a lot like flu shots – a regular thing.

“There is some evidence that over time, that initial protection that we all got from the vaccination process may start to wane,” said Dr. David Goodfriend, of the Loudoun County Health Department. “If that protection is starting to wane, there’s value in boosting it to get you back up to where you started from.”

“It’s not any different from when we get a tetanus booster every 10 years,” he added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected in the next couple of weeks to recommend third shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines eight months after their second shots, as data show that their effectiveness can slump around the eight-month mark. Federal health officials last week recommended boosters for some people with compromised immune systems.

Researchers are still collecting data on the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine; it’s not known when or whether they’ll make a recommendation.

Goodfriend said there shouldn’t be much trouble with supplies for third shots, since no one is eight months away from vaccination yet, and people will become eligible for the boosters gradually. “We won’t know how it will roll out until we receive recommendations from the CDC, but very likely, it will be rolled out the same way the initial vaccines were,” with older people and health care workers getting first priority. “But that’s not until the end of September or October, at the earliest.”

He added that most people “may still be fully covered by their initial vaccination process. But there’s that opportunity, as we’re getting into October and November, to go to your doctor, go to your pharmacist, go to other places that have the COVID vaccine, and get your flu shot at the same time.”

The doctor added that anyone who can get vaccinated, and hasn’t been, really should.

“The best thing that we can do to keep ourselves protected from the Delta variant and reduce transmission is vaccination. On top of that, it’s wearing a mask while you’re indoors. Because we know that fully vaccinated people, while it’s extremely unlikely that they’ll get hospitalized or died from the Delta variant, can still get infected at some level, and can still potentially pass it on.”

Some people, Goodfriend said, are holding out because they fear not enough is known about the vaccine. But he said plenty is known at this point. “This is a vaccine that over 100 million Americans have already received, and some of them received them seven, eight months ago.”

As for the other reasons people may have, Goodfriend said people should go to sources of information that they go to for other major medical decisions. “’Should I eat healthy? Should I exercise? Should I go on blood pressure medicine?’ You talk to your doctor, talk to your pastor, talk to people you trust.” The COVID-19 vaccine, he said, shouldn’t be any different.

Eventually, he said, the shots will be part of the routine.

“It really will turn out, eventually, to be very similar to our flu shots … typically, people start getting flu shots in October, and that process will go from October usually through December and into January.”

WTOP’s Valerie Bonk contributed to this report.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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