Morris Hospital doctor says COVID-19 booster ‘very important’

Doctor says there is a difference between vaccinated, unvaccinated patients in the hospital

Dr. John Bolden, infectious disease physician at Morris Hospital, receives a COVID-19 vaccination shot.

Vaccinated patients at Morris Hospital are having much better outcomes than unvaccinated.

Even with the increase in breakthrough COVID infections, there isn’t any doubt in Dr. John Bolden’s mind. The doctor said being boosted or up to date on any additional doses a person is eligible to receive is making the biggest difference of all.

“We’re absolutely seeing a difference between the vaccinated and unvaccinated patients in the hospital,” said Bolden, infectious disease physician at Morris Hospital. “While we are seeing more vaccinated patients with breakthrough infections than we did earlier in the pandemic, patients who are up to date on their vaccine series or booster are definitely less likely to be hospitalized, in the ICU, or on a ventilator.”

Being “up to date” means a person has received all of the additional COVID vaccine doses they are eligible to receive. The vaccine schedule is outlined on and varies depending on type of vaccine received, age, and whether a person has a weakened immune system.

As the recent wave continues and possibility of additional variants looms, Bolden said the need for staying up-to-date on the vaccine only increases. The booster revives neutralizing antibodies as much as 20 to 30 times from before getting boosted. Those who are not up to date face an increasing chance of being infected or even hospitalized with COVID.

“If you got vaccinated 5 to 12 months ago, your neutralizing antibodies are dropping,” Bolden said. “That means, if you’re exposed to the virus, you could be putting yourself at risk of getting the COVID infection, so a booster is very important.”

Bolden said individuals who have multiple co-morbidities especially need to keep up with the recommended COVID vaccine schedule, including those who have lung conditions such as COPD, asthma, bronchitis and emphysema; heart conditions such as coronary artery disease or stents; a recent history of cancer; organ transplant patients; immunocompromising conditions; diabetics and those who are considered obese.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 69.4% of the people in Illinois are fully vaccinated and about 28.7% have received a booster dose. In La Salle County, 55.49% of the county has been fully vaccinated and 29,422 booster doses have been administered.

“As a community and as a society, we need to get boosted to keep everyone safe,” Bolden said.

When it comes to the types of vaccines, Bolden has not seen a significant difference between Moderna and Pfizer, but he has seen more breakthrough infections in those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“That’s probably because Johnson & Johnson is only one dose,” Bolden said. “A person’s neutralizing antibodies were probably not as high with the one-shot vaccine as they were with the two-shot vaccines.”

Whether you are vaccinated or not, Bolden advised everyone to take greater precautions like masking, social distancing and handwashing, especially until the current wave subsides. He also encourages people to consider upgrading their mask from cloth to the surgical or N95 masks and to try to minimize risks especially when going out in public.

“If you’re unvaccinated or if you’re not up-to-date on the vaccine, you should be even more vigilant,” the doctor said.