Dr. David Sanchez Explains How Our Immune Response Is Bolstered By COVID Boosters - Exclusive

As of July of 2022, about 598 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been put into arms in the U.S. But we are far from done protecting ourselves against the virus that has shaped the last few years of our lives. That's because even though everyone is eligible for a booster shot, marking the third poke in the vaccine series, a fourth immunization is now available for immunocompromised individuals as well as people who are over the age of 50.

During an exclusive interview with Dr. David Sanchez, an Associate Professor of Pharmaceuticals at Western University of Health Sciences, Health Digest asked him about the potential of a fourth shot becoming available for everyone. He said this will likely happen in the fall, but he also acknowledged that some folks may feel skeptical about the need for more jabs. While he encourages people to ask questions, he also explained why vaccine protection is so important for our immune systems — something Dr. Sanchez knows from personal experience.

COVID protection doesn't last forever following a vaccination

As Dr. David Sanchez told Health Digest, in addition to working as an associate professor in pharmaceutical sciences and conducting the research program in viral immunity, he "was a participant in one of the clinical trials for the first COVID vaccines and was getting the immunization several months before they were officially approved." He noted, "I wanted to do my part to bring better protection to our community and knew we all had to do our part."

Sure, most of us thought doing our part was getting two COVID shots. But that changed when the Centers for Disease Control strongly recommended a third dose from a booster. 

As Dr. Sanchez explained, while vaccination is "really powerful," the protection isn't everlasting. "[Vaccination] provides a strong immune response in the person that lasts for different amounts of time," he told us. "But for the COVID vaccines, the immunity is strong for a couple of months and then not as strong. That means the immune response is still there, but instead of a whole legion of immune cells and antibodies, we have just a few scouts left over."

That's where the COVID booster comes in.

COVID boosters continue to protect against severe disease

With new variants of COVID potentially cropping up in the future, Dr. David Sanchez emphasized just how imperative it is to keep up with booster shots as they become available.

"Each time we get exposed to the vaccine, we boost up the immune response and make it ready to fight any potential virus," he said. "That is why it was important to get a booster right when there is more spread of a variant. The more antibodies, the less chance of severe disease."

All we need to do to really get the message is remember how scary the onset of the pandemic was before vaccines were available, when people were getting very sick, many required hospitalization, and — tragically — COVID was responsible for millions of deaths.

"Now, since so many people are vaccinated, those that get COVID usually get a severe cold but with less worry that they might need to go to the hospital," Sanchez assured us, adding, "That is key: Make the disease less so there is less chance to be hospitalized."

Learn more about Dr. David Sanchez's research at the College of Pharmacy.