Data shows updated COVID boosters offer significant protection
- US News
- December 3, 2022
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As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge in Los Angeles County, officials express renewed confidence in the effectiveness of the updated COVID-19 booster shot.
New data has revealed that the updated COVID-19 vaccines offer “significant additional protection” against symptomatic infections in people previously vaccinated or boosted with the older formula.
While the effectiveness of vaccinations varied depending on a person’s vaccination history, data recently published in a weekly report on morbidity and mortality from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found consistently increased defenses in all age groups of adults.
“Everyone was asking, ‘Where is the clinical efficacy data?’ Now it’s out with the CDC [report]said Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s outgoing chief medical adviser on the pandemic, at a briefing ahead of Thanksgiving. “We know it’s effective.”
For those 18-49 year olds who had been at least eight months since their last dose of vaccine, the new vaccine increased protection by 56%, according to the report. In adults in this age group who received the older vaccine and then the updated booster in the last two to three months, the relative effectiveness was 30%.
The same was true for older adults. For those 50 to 64-year-olds who had been vaccinated in recent months, the new shots increased protection by 31% – that figure rose to 48% when they were at least eight months away from their last dose, according to the report. For older seniors, the figures were 28% and 43%, respectively.
The latest version of the vaccine, available since September, offers protection against the ancestral strain of coronavirus, as well as the newer circulating omicron subvariants, including BA.4 and the long-dominant BA.5.
For this reason it is known as a bivalent booster, which distinguishes it from the older monovalent vaccine that was only developed against the original strain. The process of changing the formula was similar to the annual flu shot update.
When the boosters came out, many experts endorsed them, noting that animal studies showed a good immune response. However, some have been concerned about the lack of clinical data proving its effectiveness in humans.
“If you look at the recent data that’s coming out of the [vaccine] It is now clear to companies as well as scientific researchers – despite [an] initial confusion – that … the updated vaccine clearly elicits a better response against BA.4/5 and the sublineages of BA.4/5 than the ancestral strain,” Fauci said. “It’s looking pretty good.”
The updated booster shot is available for people 5 years and older who were last vaccinated at least two months ago.
While the proportion of those who are rolling up their sleeves is steadily growing, progress has been slow. In California, 18.3% of the state’s 28.7 million eligible residents received the bivalent refresher — a far cry from the more than 72% who completed their primary series.
“We found very low intake of the bivalent booster,” said California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly recently. “I know every day I wonder with Californians if they should get it, if now is the right time. And it’s a resounding yes.”
In Los Angeles County, approximately 1.1 million residents ages 12 and older have received the updated booster shot, approximately 15% of the 7.16 million who are eligible for the shot.
Officials are urging people to get the updated shot, especially seniors and other vulnerable people. Coronavirus cases in LA County have more than tripled from their fall low, rising to 3,053 new cases per day in the seven days ended Friday.
That’s 212 weekly cases per 100,000 people per capita. A rate of 100 or more is considered high.
The San Francisco Bay Area is also seeing a surge in cases, including among UC San Francisco employees who are more likely to be infected in the community than at work.
“We’re seeing a really big increase here,” said Dr. Ralph Gonzales, associate dean of UC San Francisco, at a city hall recently.
As of September 5, only 1 in 100 UC San Francisco workers and students who received the updated refresher have contracted the coronavirus. But among those not charged with the updated shot, about 1 in 20 became infected, according to Gonzales.
“That’s why I want to encourage the bivalent booster because we’re seeing it’s offering quite good protection, at least so far,” he said.
dr Robert Wachter, Chair of the Medical School at UC San Francisco, tweeted Friday that 5% of patients on campus who have no symptoms will test positive for the coronavirus, up from 2% last month. This suggests that in a crowd of 150 people, say people on an airplane, there is a 99.9% chance that at least one of them is positive for the coronavirus and is unaware of it.
Even as coronavirus cases rise, there is optimism this winter will not bring the same devastation as previous years of the pandemic. That confidence stems from a relatively robust toolkit that now includes tests, vaccines, and treatments.
Residents can also make individual arrangements, such as: B. washing your hands regularly, covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, or wearing a mask in crowded spaces or indoors.
“We have COVID vaccines. We have tests. We have the ability to use good judgment to wear masks indoors under certain circumstances, where appropriate,” Fauci said. “So there’s a lot we can do to mitigate any surge.”
But the aftermath of a now-delayed booster campaign could reverberate later. As Ghaly put it, “The result of low utilization means more pressure on the healthcare system.”
“Now is not too late to get these vaccines — not only to have your personal protection, but to support the broader needs, have our delivery system ready to serve people with needs other than respiratory viruses,” said he.
In more recent comments Thursday, Ghaly expressed optimism that more people would get the bivalent booster.
“If you just look at yesterday, we’re almost 40% up in the number of [updated boosters] that we calculated was given in California … as the seven-day moving average,” Ghaly said in an online conversation with the Public Policy Institute of California. “So that tells me that Californians are starting to get the message. They begin to see the true reality of the threat.”
LA County officials are also concerned about a rapid increase in coronavirus-positive hospitalizations. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 1,285 new admissions of coronavirus-positive patients in the county in the week ended Wednesday — more than triple the rate since early November.
“We have a feeling we’re seeing a much faster acceleration than we’d like to see at this point,” LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday. Should hospital admissions continue to increase, there is concern that this will eventually lead to deaths as well.
The people most vulnerable to COVID-19 are unvaccinated, Fauci said. And those who were vaccinated but still became infected and died from COVID-19 were more likely not to have received a booster shot, officials said.
“The science on this is crystal clear: [When] People get their refresher, if you get infected, the chances of you ending up in the hospital super ill are extremely slim. That’s the message: people need to get their updated vaccine,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator.
An encouraging sign from outside the US comes from Singapore, which has seen a large surge of new cases related to Omicron subvariant XBB.
“They had [an] Increase in cases, but they didn’t have a concomitant large increase in hospital admissions,” Fauci said. “So we’re hoping that a combination of people who’ve been infected and refreshed and vaccinated – or people who have been vaccinated and refreshed and not infected – gives enough community protection that we won’t be repeating what we saw around this time last year. “
All of this assumes there are no other COVID curveballs. This time last year, Omicron emerged, shattering hopes that the pandemic was over.
Conditions are always subject to change based on “things out of left field that you can’t predict,” Jha said.
“But nothing I’ve seen in the sub-variants makes me think we can’t prevail effectively, especially if people stand up and get their vaccine,” he said.
Federal officials are still urging Congress to pass a $10 billion proposal to fund a COVID-19 pandemic that has stalled for months. Jha warned that the US is falling behind other nations in investing in a new generation of COVID-19 vaccines that can better protect against infection through a nasal spray.
“What you’ve seen is that China is investing a lot in mucosal vaccines because they understand that’s how you deal with respiratory viruses. America is falling behind on this really important technology,” Jha said. “A big part of our request is funding for public-private partnerships to advance these types of technologies and advance the next generation of treatments.”