NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Doctors across the country are urging vaccinations and booster doses as the omicron and delta variants spike COVID positivity rates across the country. But many still have questions about the safety of continued injections to stave off severe infection.
Although COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at minimizing severe symptoms caused by the virus, vaccine effectiveness decreases over time. That’s why boosters are being recommended. With a study out of Israel now touting the potential benefits of a 4th shot, some may be wondering whether the boosters are permanent. Others question whether there is a risk of harm from too much vaccine.
Nexstar’s WKRN asked a Vanderbilt University Medical Center infectious disease expert if it’s possible to overprotect one’s self and unintentionally do more harm than good.
“No, is the short answer,” said Dr. Amia Ahonkhai. “There’s an entirely separate pathology when your immune system does not know how to turn off when there is something stimulating it. And in the case of autoimmune diseases, that thing stimulating it is something normal in your own body – we can’t create that scenario, from vaccination, with small doses of antigens.”
In general, the CDC says, “your risk of serious side effects does not increase if you get extra doses of a vaccine.”
Dr. Dorry Segev, a transplant surgeon at Johns Hopkins University who studies the response of transplant patients, recently told the New York Times his data generally shows that additional vaccine doses “should be safe and can work in some cases.” But he told the Times there could be some risks to additional shots, such as overstimulating the immune system.
Dr. Ahonkhai encourages those with questions to reach out to medical professions and reminded fellow physicians to be patient with those still hesitant to roll up their sleeves.
“Information is changing,” Dr. Ahonkhai said. “And I think taking some responsibility on the side of the public health community, that we need to be really intentional about how we explain this information, because there can be so much lost in trust if that’s not done effectively.”
The super-contagious omicron variant has caused the number of new U.S. COVID-19 cases per day to more than triple over the past two weeks, according to the Associated Press. The surge has caused disruptions at hospitals, airports, and schools across the country.