Booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are not just reducing the number of infections with the contagious Omicron variant, they’re also keeping infected Americans out of hospitals, according to data published on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The agency reported that the extra doses were 90 percent effective in preventing hospitalization from the variant. Booster shots can also reduce the likelihood that you will need to visit an urgent care clinic or emergency department. Data also showed that Americans over 50 years old are most likely to be protected against infection and death by taking extra doses.
Over all, the new research indicates that the vaccines are more protective against the Delta variant than against Omicron, which lab studies have found is partially able to sidestep the body’s immune response.
“These reports add more evidence to the importance of being up-to-date with Covid vaccinations,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the C.D.C., said at a White House briefing on Friday.
Data from Israel and other countries has shown that boosters can help to prevent severe illness or hospitalization, at minimum in older adults. However, it wasn’t clear whether the extra doses of boosters would have the same effect in the United States. There are different patterns of vaccination and immunity in the United States.
These studies, which were published Friday, are among the most reliable and comprehensive assessments of the role that booster shots are playing in the U.S. Pandemic. Researchers reviewed millions of cases and tens of thousand of deaths and hospitalizations as Omicron and Delta variants came to prominence.
“These numbers should be very convincing,” Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University, said of the figures released on Friday.
The detailed reports came along with indications that the Omicron wave may be receding. The nation now reports 736,000 new cases per day, a decrease of more than 800,000. Hospital admissions have also declined.
Yet, the virus continues spreading in many states. More than 2,000 people still die each day.
Two of the studies were published in the C.D.C.’s Morbidity and Mortality Report. Researchers analyzed hospitalizations, visits to urgent care clinics, and emergency department visits in 10 states between Aug. 26, 2021 and Jan. 5, 2022.
The authors found that vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization with Omicron variant was just 57% in patients who received their second dose within six months. The protection was restored to 90 percent with a third dose.
The second study examined nearly 10,000,000 Covid cases and more that 117,000 deaths associated with them, which were recorded at 25 state- and local health departments between April 4, 2021 and December 25, 2021.
The researchers found that the rate of cases and deaths among those who had received a boost dose was lower than among those who had been fully vaccinated but didn’t receive a booster and lower than among unvaccinated individuals.
The study found that booster doses were more effective in protecting people over 65 than those between 50 and 64. Researchers did not provide data on the effects of shots on younger people.
The third study, published in JAMA, analyzed data from more that 70,000 people who sought testing. It found that a third dose was more effective than two or none. Full vaccination and boosters proved less effective against Omicron than Delta.
The C.D.C. published additional data on Thursday night. Additional data was published by the C.D.C. on Thursday night. It showed that in December, Americans aged 50 and older who had not been vaccinated were 45 times more likely than those who were vaccinated.
These studies together make it clear that boosters can be a valuable defense against Omicron. Only 40% of Americans who have been fully vaccinated are eligible for a booster.
It’s too soon to know whether protection from the extra shots might wane, noted Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at Emory University.
“We just have to recognize that all these estimates of Omicron third-dose protection are going to be people who are pretty recently boosted,” she said.
The Coronavirus Pandemic: Key Information
The C.D.C. now recommends booster shots for everyone 12 years and older, five months after getting two doses of the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, or two months after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
When discussing booster shot recommendations for American adults, scientific advisors to the Food and Drug Administration and C.D.C. The absence of data specific to the United States was frequently remarked upon.
There are differences between Israel and the United States — for example, in the way Israel defines severe illness — that made it challenging to interpret the relevance of Israeli data for Americans, they said.
Some members of Biden’s administration supported booster doses long before the scientific advisers at the agencies had had a chance review the data from Israel. Federal health officials increased the boosters-for all campaign after the Omicron variant was introduced.
In the fall, there was much debate about booster shots for Americans younger than 50. Many experts believed that third shots were unnecessary for younger adults, as two doses of vaccine were sufficient.
Some experts were still skeptical about the new data.
It was clear even months ago that older adults and those with weakened immune systems would benefit from extra doses of the vaccine, said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of the F.D.A.’s vaccine advisory committee.
But “where is the evidence that a third dose benefits a healthy young person?” he asked.
“If you’re trying to stop the spread of this virus, vaccinate the unvaccinated,” he added. “We keep trying to further protect the already protected.”
Other experts decided to switch to boosters when the Omicron variant, which is highly contagious, arrived. Even though two doses were sufficient for young people to avoid hospitalization, experts said that a third dose could help prevent the spread of this virus.
“They’re both data-driven, legitimate positions,” said John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York.
But at this point, the debate is over: “We are using boosters in everyone, and that’s what’s happening.”
Source: NY Times