LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – New research shows that protection provided by COVID-19 vaccines may not last as long as originally thought, and now some experts are worried that low demand for boosters may lead to further outbreaks, especially in those more vulnerable to the virus.

While many people are ready to put the pandemic behind them, others are doubling or tripling down on vaccine protection.

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“Yeah, I got my booster shot…because I’m already a senior,” said a man identified only as Ray.

Lynne Kirsty said she has an autoimmune disorder and got the booster shot as soon as she could.

“I think I would do very, very badly if I got it,” she said. “I think I’d get really sick. So, I definitely didn’t want to get it and I feel like the booster will help keep me from getting it.”

Across California, though, fewer people are getting boosters than anticipated.

According to data from the LA Times, only 27% of eligible seniors in LA County have received their booster shots, and many doctors say boosters may actually be the best way to steer clear of COVID-19 complications heading into the winter months.

This comes on the heels of research published in the Journal of Science that showed vaccine protections might not last as long as scientists believed.

  • Moderna’s two-dose vaccine was 89% effective against the virus in March, but dropped to 58% in September
  • Pfizer’s vaccine went from 87% effective against the virus in March to 45% in September
  • Johnson and Johnson’s single dose vaccine saw the biggest decline, falling from 86% effective to just 13% in the same timeframe

The falling protection rates have some epidemiologists concerned.

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“We don’t know for sure, but that may increase the population of people who may be more vulnerable to COVID-19,” Dr. Kimberly Shriner, with Huntington Hospital, said.

Shriner is an infectious disease doctor and explained that immunity starts to wane months after your second shot, and that the booster acts something like a reminder.

“For that reason, the booster locks in the immune system, so that it recognizes it quickly and takes care of it so you may not even get infected,” said Shriner.

According to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the elderly, people with underlying medical issues and adults who work or live in high-risk settings should get a booster shot.

In highly vaccinated societies that are farther away from their last shot, those individuals may have more disease and more disease may be circulating,” said Shriner.

Some people who opted for a third shot said they did it for the greater good.

“Just for the community as a whole, you know,” said Gail Wise, who received her booster shot. “Because it just helps protect other people, and for me, I want to do the right thing.”

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It is especially important, according to doctors, that vulnerable people get a third dose or a booster shot. On Friday, Director of LA County Department of Public Health, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, said that anyone living in a nursing home in LA County who wants to have a booster shot should be able to get one by November 24.