ATLANTA - Booster shots are in demand at Dr. Cecil Bennett's practice, Newnan Family Medicine.
"Everyone is panicked and wants a booster," Dr. Bennett says. "That has really been the response. I think everyone is a little spooked over the fact, at least what they're hearing on television, about their antibody levels waning over time and seniors being move vulnerable."
To reassure patients, Bennett recommends a blood test to measure their antibody levels against the virus that causes COVID-19.
"I let them know that they have antibody levels that are 200 to 300 times the level of them being immune," he says. "But, if they want to go ahead and get a booster, I am fine with that."
The CDC recommends a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, given six months out from the second shot, for fully vaccinated people age 65 and older, adults with high risk health conditions and those more likely to be exposed to the virus because of where they work or live.
Dr. Bennett prefers to go on a case-by-case basis, using the antibody titer test.
"If they're nervous about getting a booster, or not getting a booster, or are they protected, I can provide them objective evidence they have high antibody titres, and that calms them down," he says. 'Because they know that they can see that the vaccine is still working, and they can still have an opportunity to get a booster, if they want to do that. But at least they know that their antibody titers show they are immune."
A study published Monday in the British medical journal The Lancet found, while the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine remains about 90% effective at preventing hospitalization, its effectiveness at blocking infection drops from about 88% to 47% after six months.
"No vaccine protects every population 100% from asymptomatic or mild disease," Dr. Bennett says. "We have vaccines every year for flu, and we tell our patients, 'This decreases your risk of having severe flu symptoms, but you may have mild symptoms.' That's always been the case when it comes to these vaccines."
Bennett says the vaccines remain highly effective at protecting people against being hospitalized and dying from complications of the virus.
He cites older Americans, who have the highest rates of vaccination, as an example of that.
"We see a lot more people hospitalized this year due to delta," Bennett says. "But, the one group we have not heard about having any issues are seniors. Now, think about that. This entire six months of delta rampaging across the United States, increasing hospitalizations, and seniors have been safe. So, this verifies the fact the vaccine is still working in our seniors."