Billings infection control expert answers questions about the COVID booster

Pfizer Vaccine
Posted at 9:10 AM, Oct 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-15 11:10:08-04

BILLINGS- With COVID cases rising daily in Montana, many are asking the question: to boost or not to boost?

But some hesitancy might come from needing more information about the vaccine or boosters.

While health officials encourage people to get the most up-to-date and credible information when deciding, MTN News reached out to Nancy Iversen with Billings Clinic to get those burning booster questions, answered.

Q&A with Nancy Iversen on the COVID booster

MTN News: Nancy, did you think we would still be dealing with COVID in 2021?

Iversen: I'm not surprised we're into year two. I've always thought that this respiratory pandemic would be a three-to-five-year experience.

MTN News: Are the components of the booster the same as the shot? What are the ingredients?

Iversen: I have the primary series, first and second shot of Pfizer. Yes, the booster was the same.

She also says, although the data is continuous with the vaccines, there’s new research to suggest that those who received the Moderna shot might be in luck for added protection.

Iversen: Moderna has a little bit higher dose, it has a different dose than the Pfizer so they're seeing maybe people with Moderna don't need it (a booster).

MTN News: Should the public expect to get boosters on a regular basis?

Iversen: I believe that we probably will have more boosters and I do believe we'll see more variants, and the reason why, in my opinion, is such, it's because not everybody is wearing masks and we have lower vaccination rates in our community and in our state.

MTN News: Should I mix vaccines? For example, if I got the Johnson and Johnson vaccine can I get the Pfizer booster?

Iversen: It's not recommended to go out and get a Pfizer on top of a J &J. Those vaccines, the mRNA vaccine is different than the J & J vaccine, and they're just made differently.”

Part of Iversen’s response comes from scientists with the World Health Organization advising individuals against mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines back in July.

However, the public can expect more data to come out about mixing and matching vaccines on Oct. 15 and just this week a new study from the National Institute of Health came forward saying mixing and matching vaccines was found to be safe and effective.

Iversen says people need to be patient as the data rolls out and to keep following the guidance of public health officials.

MTN News: When can everyone expect to be eligible for a booster? And am I at a disadvantage if I don’t have the booster yet?

Iversen: You still got a vaccine it's effective, highly effective. You may, because of Delta, need to understand it's more transmissible. So maybe, rather than worry about the vaccine, consider what your behaviors are, and you may need to do more public health measures.”

This week MTN News headed over to Pharm406 on the west side of Billings, where a line of those considered high risk were getting their booster vaccine.

Linda Fasching of Billings and her husband, both in the 65 and older class, opted to get the Pfizer booster.

After getting the shot, Fasching said she felt like she had received an extra layer of protection against the virus and the Delta variant.

But she says, she will keep listening to the guidance of experts for the next steps.

“Who knows what's out there and then all the different variant who knows,” she said. “But I think just take it one step at a time and so this is the next step. And then we'll just see where it goes from there.”

Iversen says the bottom line: people need to enlist their doctor to talk vaccine risks and benefits, she says ultimately that is the person who knows you the best and will help guide you to make the decision right for your own health.