Third COVID dose and annual shots could be necessary

Third COVID dose and annual shots could be necessary

The second jab could cause worse flu-like symptoms

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Dr. Nikkiah Forbes, director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programm, said yesterday that it is highly probable as COVID-19 mutates and emerges with new strains that there will be a need for booster COVID vaccines or for vaccines to be tweaked to cover these variants.

Her comments follow Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla who said people will likely need a third dose of a COVID-9 vaccine within 12 months of getting fully vaccinated, and annual COVID vaccination is possible.

In February, Johnson and Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said people may need to get vaccinated against COVID-19 annual like flu shots.

During a Ministry of Health questions and answers session, Forbes said: “As long as the outbreak is going on worldwide, the virus is going to do what virus’ do — they change, they mutate.

“And some of these changes mean that people with COVID can be more infectious.

“It can mean that people get sicker and it can even mean that some vaccines don’t fully work as well as they would on the wild-type, original strain. And that happens in other respiratory viruses like the flu. That changes every year.

“Scientists have to predict what will be the circulating strain. And so, we change the flu vaccine a little bit every year to predict for that, to cover that strain. COVID-19 is probably going to be like that.

“There are probably going to be vaccines that are changed a little bit or booster vaccines to cover these emerging strains, and so it is highly probable there’s going to need to be booster doses of it.”

Forbes also said that the second of the two-shot COVID-19 vaccine needed to become fully vaccinated against the virus can cause more “robust” symptoms than the first.

According to international reports, while the first dose of the vaccine kickstarts the production of an immune response, the second dose, helps to strengthen protection and amplifies the immune system’s response, which could cause more symptoms of chills, fever and fatigue.

Millions across the globe have received vaccine jabs.

Oxford AstraZeneca is a two-dose vaccine.

More than 15,000 people have been vaccinated in The Bahamas.

“You may be having a worse side effect profile than the first dose,” Forbes said.

“You know why; because your immune system is a little bit primed in that first dose

“It has been reported that after the second dose more people describe the adverse effects.

“And the adverse effects are the same… fever, chills, sore arm, tiredness, a little headache.”

The World Health Organization recommends taking the second dose within eight to 12 weeks of the first.

Forbes underscored the importance of receiving the second dose to ensure full immunity.

“Fully immunity, you don’t get it until you’ve received the full schedule of doses

“So, you’re only partially protected if you get the first dose only.”

Nurse Ruth Bastian, a veteran nurse and the first Bahamian to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in The Bahamas, assured that second doses will be made available for vaccine recipients who have taken the first dose.

Nurse Ruth Bastian becomes the first Bahamian to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in The Bahamas at Loyola Hall on Gladstone Road on Sunday, March 14, 2021.

Asked about vaccine recipients who do not receive their second dose within the recommended eight to 12 weeks and what would be the protocols for them, Bastian reiterated: “Presently, the recommendation is that once they have gotten the first dose, they can get the second dose if they miss their appointment date. But we are encouraging persons to get the vaccine, try their and keep appointment dates for the 10 weeks — that’s what we have right now as our schedule for our second dose, and we want to encourage persons to try and get their vaccines within the recommended time of withing 10-12 weeks.”

Fewer children being ordinarily immunized 

Bastian noted that the ongoing pandemic has impacted The Bahamas’ national immunization program.

“We do not see as much children coming into our clinics as we would like to for their routine immunizations,” she said.

“And so, it has impacted our national coverage to a great extent.

“We can see where our babies are not getting the recommended, scheduled immunizations.”

Bastian encouraged parents and guardians to ensure their children get immunized to the wide range of diseases that have been relatively eliminated in The Bahamas.

“There is that risk if we do not keep our immunization coverage at a high level, there is that risk that these diseases can be reintroduced into our communities,” she added.