Second booster shot necessary even after catching COVID
DEAR DR. ROACH: Two weeks ago, my friend got COVID a week before she was scheduled for her second booster. She is 55. She feels the second booster isn't necessary now, because she is effectively immunized. I understand that the second booster is recommended three to four months after recovery. Can you enlighten me? A mutual friend who is immunocompromised feels unsafe around her unless she is "fully boosted." I feel stuck between two good friends. -- J.S.B.
ANSWER: Very recent evidence has shown that people who have had three doses of the vaccine do not receive a large boost in immunity from getting COVID at the time of this writing, when the omicron variant is dominant in North America. Your friend who had COVID has about the same risk of getting COVID again as she did two weeks ago. She still is highly protected against serious disease (causing hospitalization) and from death after three doses of the vaccine (compared with an unvaccinated person, or even a person who had only two doses), but she can certainly catch another case of COVID. A second booster shot (four doses total) appears to reduce the risk of infection by half and the risk of severe infection by about 80%, so at this time, I would still recommend a fourth dose to a person like your friend who got COVID. Waiting three months after infection is reasonable, but she also could get the vaccine earlier, once she has recovered from COVID.
Unfortunately, no combination of vaccines and infection is 100% effective at preventing another case, so people who are immunocompromised need to remain very vigilant. People at higher risk -- like your immunocompromised friend -- should ask about treatment options if they test positive for COVID. Many people get positive home-test results and don't let their doctor know in time to get treatment early, when it's most effective.
Finally, your mutual friend with the compromised immune system should consider Evusheld, an injection that provides good protection for six months.
DEAR DR. ROACH: My 92-year-old friend is a big believer and proponent of H3O. He has tablets that he adds to regular water to make it into H3O. Is this really a thing, and does it rid the body of free radicals, as he claims? He is very fit for his age, so I listen when he comes up with stuff like this. I hope to age as successfully as he has done. -- D.F.
ANSWER: All liquid water has a small number of ions, since a tiny proportion of the present water molecules spontaneously break up to make H+ ions (protons) and OH- (hydroxyl) ions. Each are present in neutral water at a proportion of 1 in 10 million. That extra hydrogen ion will form a temporary (tiny fractions of seconds) bond with regular water, forming H3O+, or hydronium. Adding more acid to water will create more H3O+ -- although, still, at very, very small concentrations (the pH is a way of quantifying the amount of acid in water). This is just the chemistry of water. Nothing will make H3O+ last longer. There are no health benefits associated with water that is slightly more acidic or more alkaline. I'm afraid your friend, however healthy, has fallen victim to a hoax, similar to others like "gel water," hexagonal water and H3O2.
Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu or send mail to 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.
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