Myths, disinformation are preventing people from getting booster shots

Micheal Federico gives Raymundo de Los Santos a vaccination at the historic First African Methodist Episcopal Church in LA
Micheal Federico, left, gives Raymundo de Los Santos, a vaccination at the historic First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME) in Los Angeles. Care Health Plan has partnered with the historic First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME) to offer free COVID-19 vaccines, including first, second and booster doses, as well as COVID-19 testing.
(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)

Officials say circulating myths are likely keeping many people from getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

In Los Angeles County, there remain 1.7 million residents who haven’t received a single vaccination dose, and 2.7 million vaccinated people who are eligible for a booster but haven’t yet received one, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week.

Even among seniors 65 and over, 90% of whom are considered fully vaccinated, only 63% have received a booster shot, Ferrer said.


Among the myths Ferrer sought to clear up about boosters:

• Some people may think that just two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna shots are adequate and they don’t need a third shot, but getting the booster offers the best protection.

• Some might think needing a booster means the primary series of vaccines don’t work. That’s not true — shortly after getting the first series of vaccinations, protection is high but then fades over the next few months, and the booster fortifies the immune response to fend off the coronavirus, Ferrer said.

• Surviving a coronavirus infection after receiving the primary series of vaccination doesn’t count as a booster, Ferrer said, and may not offer as ample protection against future variants as the additional vaccine dose might. She noted recent data showing that immunity from a past infection from the Delta variant of the coronavirus didn’t necessarily protect people from getting infected with the later Omicron variant.

• Booster doses don’t make you sick with COVID-19. That’s impossible, because none of the vaccines or boosters contain the coronavirus.

A key front in California’s battle against COVID-19 remains getting as many people vaccinated as possible.

Most Californians, nearly 79%, have already gotten at least one dose, and about seven in 10 are fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by The Times.


Many of those who remain unvaccinated are children under 5 who are not yet eligible for the shots. Until they are, “one of the most important things that we need to do is make sure the adults around them are vaccinated,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said recently at an event sponsored by the Sacramento Press Club.

But while reaching the still-substantial share of the population that’s eligible but unvaccinated has been slow, those efforts are continuing to bear fruit. “Every single day somebody who didn’t make the decision to be vaccinated up until now is getting vaccinated,” Ghaly said. “And that’s a success.

”That’s also why, moving forward, “we need to continue to be ready for those individuals to make a decision today, for one reason or another.”

“We see that in healthcare all the time: that people make a decision over time to receive a treatment, to stop smoking, to go and start taking care of their blood pressure and, in this case to get vaccinated,” he said.

“So it’s not something new to us. We’ll be patient. We’ll keep trying to deliver messages and we need to keep fighting the mis- and disinformation that I believe has cost many lives in California.”