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Boost your Immunity: What Black Kansas Need to Know about COVID-19 Boosters

COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020. To date, there have been 103,436,829 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,127,152 reported deaths in the United States, as reported to the World Health Organization (WHO)(1). In response to this life changing pandemic, scientists developed a vaccine to combat the virus and protect our health.

After the development of the vaccine, rumors and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines started circulating. These myths persist even as our medical community strongly advocates for ongoing protection through COVID-19 boosters. It is essential to distinguish between facts and fiction to promote vaccine equity and enhance vaccine coverage within the Black community. Through this article and ongoing discussions, we aim to emphasize the significance of the COVID-19 boosters and encourage their acceptance.

Understanding COVID-19 Boosters

COVID-19 boosters are additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered after your initial vaccination series. Think of them as a 'reminder' to your immune system. When you receive your initial COVID-19 shots, your body learns how to combat the virus. Over time, the strength of your immunity can slowly fade. Boosters keep your immune system on high alert, especially as time goes on and new variants appear. It is also important to note that the booster will not prevent the virus, but reduce the risk of severe symptoms.

Pfizer and Moderna are expected to have a revised booster specifically targeting new variants. These booster shots are expected to become available by the end of September, pending approval from the FDA and CDC. Once the booster is approved for use, you will have access to updated guidelines specifying when it's advisable to receive your booster shot.

If you’re looking to find a location for your booster shot in your neighborhood, visit vaccines.gov.

When Should You Get a Booster?

Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty): The FDA authorized a booster shot for individuals 12 years and older who had received their initial Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months earlier.

Moderna: The FDA authorized a booster shot for individuals 18 years and older who had received their initial Moderna vaccine at least six months earlier.

If you have never been vaccinated, you should get the two-series vaccine before receiving a booster.

Vaccine Equity and Hesitancy in the Black Community 

Numerous complex factors, including disparities in education, income, job opportunities, racial discrimination, limited healthcare access, neighborhood conditions, and historical mistrust due to past medical injustices, pose challenges to vaccine access and acceptance.

Historical instances of medical exploitation and abuse have left a deep scar on the collective memory of Black communities, contributing to a justified skepticism regarding healthcare interventions, including vaccines. However, it's important to note that acknowledging this history has led to significant changes. The painful lessons of the past have caused a reevaluation of medical ethics and research practices. Stricter regulations and guidelines now govern human research, with a strong emphasis on informed consent, participant autonomy, and ethical conduct. Moreover, the healthcare community has recognized the need to actively engage with and listen to communities affected by these traumas aimed at rebuilding trust, empowering communities, and ensuring that healthcare serves the well-being of all.

Building on the commitment to rebuilding trust and advancing health equity, another encouraging change in the healthcare system has increased the visibility of Black healthcare professionals. Take a look at this project from the Kaiser Family Foundation, “THE CONVERSATION: Between Us, About Us, A New Campaign By Black Health Care Workers for Black People about the COVID-19 Vaccines”, to hear trusted healthcare workers discuss the COVID-19 vaccine.

Demystifying COVID-19 Booster Shots: Myth vs. Fact

Myth: Booster shots are unnecessary, and the initial vaccines provide long-lasting protection.

Fact: While the initial COVID-19 vaccines provide strong protection, immunity can decrease over time, especially in the face of new variants. Booster shots are designed to reinforce and extend this protection, ensuring your immune system remains robust.

Myth: Booster shots have severe side effects that are worse than the initial vaccines.

Fact: Like with the initial shots, booster side effects are generally mild and short-lived, such as soreness at the injection site, fatigue, or mild fever. Serious side effects are extremely rare.

Myth: If I've received a vaccine from one company, I can't get a booster from another.

Fact: In many cases, individuals who initially received one type of COVID-19 vaccine can be eligible for booster shots with a different authorized vaccine. Health authorities provide guidance on booster eligibility, including options for mixing and matching vaccines.

Myth: Booster shots contain harmful substances or microchips for tracking.

Fact: COVID-19 booster shots are rigorously tested and contain only the necessary components to boost your immune response. Claims of microchips or harmful additives are baseless conspiracy theories.

Myth: COVID-19 boosters are just a ploy by pharmaceutical companies to make more money.

Fact: Booster recommendations are made by public health experts based on scientific evidence. They aim to protect public health by ensuring continued immunity against the virus, especially in the face of emerging variants. Profit is not the primary driver behind booster recommendations.

The significance of COVID-19 boosters within the Black community cannot be overstated. Boosters are a vital tool in maintaining our defenses against the virus, safeguarding our health, and preserving the well-being of our loved ones. We urge you to consider the benefits of booster shots. Protect yourself, protect your community, and encourage those around you to do the same. By staying informed, seeking vaccination, and supporting initiatives like The Kansas Black Health Initiative, we can pave the way toward a future where health disparities are diminished, and Black people have equitable access to healthcare.

References

1. United States of America: Who coronavirus disease (covid-19) dashboard with vaccination data [Internet]. World Health Organization; [cited 2023 Sept 5]. Available from: https://covid19.who.int/region/amro/country/us

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