Listen: A Veteran Health Reporter On The Brutality Of Indias Covid
Another study last week out of Qatar, which has also used the Pfizer vaccine, estimated the effectiveness of the vaccine against any B.1.351 infection was about 75% a strong result, if a drop from its performance in clinical trials before the emergence of B.1.351. Overall, however, the vaccine was 97.4% effective against severe, critical, or fatal disease caused by any variant that was circulating in the country, including B.1.351. The reduced protection against infection with the B.1.351 variant did not seem to translate into poor protection against the most severe forms of infection, the researchers wrote.
Studies indicate P.1 has roughly the same or even less ability to evade immunity as B.1.351, giving researchers confidence that the vaccines can generally stand up to that variant as well. A rapid and broad deployment of initial vaccine doses, combined with enhanced restrictions on businesses, is credited with helping quell a P.1-driven outbreak this spring in British Columbia.
Theres a degree of reduction of efficacy, but its going to be manageable with the high-performing vaccines, Moore said. Its why we call these variants of concern, and not variants of mass panic.
Another Variant Of Concern Enters The Arena
Another variant entirely, called B.1.617, appears to be helping fuel Indias devastating spring Covid-19 surge. And if the alphabet soup of different variant and mutation names wasnt already causing enough headaches, there are different sublineages of the variant that have their own characteristics.
One of the subtypes is somewhat resistant to vaccine-elicited antibodies, though perhaps not to the same extent as B.1.351, according to two preprinted studies. Such concerns, along with some evidence that B.1.617 is more transmissible, led the World Health Organization this week to designate it as a variant of concern.
But the authors of those studies also found that the level of immunity generated should still be broadly protective against the most serious outcomes. As researchers wrote in one, extensive vaccination will likely protect against moderate to severe disease and will reduce transmission of B.1.617, if perhaps not as quickly as it would suppress other, less threatening variants.
What If I Just Had Covid
Unlike with earlier variants, a previous infection isn’t much of a guarantee of protection from BA.5. “So even if you just got infected in the last three months, you may potentially get infected with BA.5,” Dr. Bernard Camins, medical director for infection prevention at the Mount Sinai Health System, told TODAY. Camins said he knows of people who got reinfected within four weeks when omicron came on the scene.
Even people who are vaccinated and have a recent previous COVID-19 infection have less protection against BA.4 and BA.5 than they did against previous variants, research shows.
In a study published online last month in Nature, researchers found that BA.4 and BA.5 were better able to evade protection from three doses of vaccine than BA.2. The new variants were also better able to evade protection in vaccinated people who had also had an omicron infection, a finding the authors described as “striking.” Other studies, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, showed similar findings.
Still, the experts agreed that reinfection in fewer than three months is likely to remain rare even with BA.5 in the mix.
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Why Are Some Vaccinated People Still Getting Very Ill
The short answer: The vaccine is highly effective against severe illness, but it is not 100% effective. Most people who are vaccinated and get infected will have mild or no symptoms, but some could get severely ill.
The details: It comes down to math. Millions of Americans are vaccinated, and that number is growing. This means that even though the risk of breakthrough infections is low, there will be thousands of fully vaccinated people who become infected and able to infect others, especially with the surging spread of the Delta variant.Among those infected, a small number will become severely ill. Many people we are seeing in our hospitals who are vaccinated usually have multiple comorbid conditions and are often immunocompromised. Vaccinated individuals most at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are those with weakened immune systems or the very elderly.
The CDC and healthcare experts continue to monitor for the development of other variants, but the best way to prevent development is to improve vaccination rates and decrease spread of the currently widespread delta variant.
What If I Got My Second Booster
Some of the best data we have so far on how well booster protection holds up now comes from a May study in the New England Journal of Medicine, Roberts noted.
The researchers found that, among people 60 years and older in Israel who received a second booster, protection against infection with the original omicron peaked after four weeks and fully waned after just eight weeks. However, protection against severe disease and death stayed strong.
Right now, only older adults and immunocompromised people are eligible to get a second booster. But the Biden administration is considering a plan that would open up eligibility to all adults who want another shot. The move would allow caregivers, people who frequently interact with older adults and new parents, for example, to better safeguard their communities.
“What if I live with somebody who’s immunocompromised and I just want to make sure that I’m affording my relative the very best protection?” Englund emphasized. “Why not do the best that you can just to help boost your immune system so that you’re less likely to carry the virus and pass it on to somebody else?”
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Why Is There A Residual Risk Despite Double Vaccination
None of the vaccinations that have been approved so far provide 100% protection against a coronavirus infection studies have shown that since their introduction.
Vaccinated people, particularly those with preexisting illnesses, still run the low risk of becoming infected and in the worst case, dying. However, the current death rate in the UK remains low, despite rising infection rates.
One of Germany’s leading virologists, Christian Drosten, said in a Coronavirus Update podcast in June that there were “cases where people who are double-vaccinated also die.” He suggested that experts look carefully at the exact cause of death and how the diagnosis was made.
Virologist Christian Drosten said we need to look carefully at the actual cause of death in delta variant cases
The high proportion of vaccinated individuals among the dead is probably due to the fact that about half of the population is now fully immunized, combined with the fact that numbers of overall deaths are dropping.
Moreover, according to PHE’s data, 116 of the 118 people who died were over the age of 50.
Peggy Riese, a scientist at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research , explained the scenario with the help of a concrete example. “If 100% of a population is vaccinated, then a few people who are vaccinated also die,” she told DW. She said that doesn’t mean the vaccine isn’t safe, just that it doesn’t provide 100% protection.
What Is A Variant Virus
A variant occurs when the virus mutates, or changes, as it replicates and creates a slightly different version of itself. Sometimes, these variant strains just disappear these are the viruses that don’t make the news and scientists are not worried about them.
Occasionally, a strain becomes a variant of concern when it is able to survive better than the original virus or previous variants of concern.
They can become more easily passed from one person to another than the original strain or variants. They could also become more or less likely to cause serious illness.
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Covid Variants And The Vaccine
The appearance of a new COVID-19 variant is not unique variants occur in all viruses over time. And the scientists studying the disease and developing COVID vaccines always anticipated that new strains would continue to evolve.
COVID-19 variants began to emerge as early as summer 2020, and several more were identified throughout 2021.
With each new variant, the COVID vaccines and their boosters remain our most powerful tool to fight all the strains of COVID-19 because the vaccines continue to significantly reduce the severity of the illness.
Still deciding about the vaccine or know someone who is? See these 7 reasons to get the vaccine.
How Can We Protect Against Them
As with other Covid variants, the risk or serious illness remains highest for people who are elderly, or who have significant underlying health conditions.
Although current vaccines are not a perfect fit, they are still the best line of defence.
They have cut the risk of severe illness against the other major Covid variants, including Delta, Alpha, Beta and Gamma.
Doctors say it is vital people get the recommended number of doses to gain maximum protection against existing and emerging variants.
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Vaccination And Booster Doses Strengthen Protection
Though BA.5 can evade antibodies the initial immune response that protects us from infection prior infection and vaccination provide strong protection against severe outcomes, according to Cohen.
Previous studies have looked at how vaccines and previous infections can protect against Omicron strains, although the research was done before the rise of BA. 5.
A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine indicated that three doses of the vaccine provided better protection than two doses. Data from a study of people over age 50 from the CDC similarly found that each additional dose boosts protection against infection.
Booster vaccinations increase antibodies quite a bit, which helps to overcome some of the virus immune evasion, Dr. Anne Liu, an infectious disease doctor, said.
The most severe infections continue to be in unvaccinated people, according to Cohen.
It seems that the severity of disease is probably significantly less, so there is benefit in terms of prior infections and vaccination for severity of outcomes, Cohen said.
Another study published this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that at least one COVID-19 booster helped add key protection against severe COVID-19 symptoms during the BA.2/BA.2.12.1 wave. A first booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine was 52% effective against hospitalization in the 120 days after getting the shot.
How Can We Prevent Future New Variants Of The Covid
Stopping the spread at the source remains key. Current measures to reduce transmission includingfrequent hand washing, wearing a mask, physical distancing, good ventilation and avoiding crowded places or closed settings continue to work against new variants by reducing the amount of viral transmission and therefore also reducing opportunitiesfor the virus to mutate.
Scaling up vaccine manufacturing and rolling out vaccines as quickly and widely as possible will also be critical ways of protecting people before they are exposed to the virus and the risk of new variants. Priority should be given to vaccinating high-riskgroups everywhere to maximize global protection against new variants and minimize the risk of transmission. Moreover, ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is more critical than ever to addressthe evolving pandemic. As more people get vaccinated, we expect virus circulation to decrease, which will then lead to fewer mutations.
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Covid Pandemic Should Serve As Chernobyl Moment For Global Health Reform International Experts Say
While most of the attention in terms of vaccine effects has focused on B.1.351 and P.1, sometimes nonevents are worth noting as well. The other variant of concern is B.1.1.7, which emerged in the United Kingdom and is not only much more transmissible than other forms of the virus, but also causes severe disease at higher rates. The vaccines, however, are continuing to work exceptionally well against the variant, both protecting individual people and snuffing out transmission, which helps explain why case counts are tumbling now in the United States, even as B.1.1.7 has become dominant.
It is clear that is not an antibody-resistant virus, Moore said.
What This Means For You
If you are eligible for a COVID-19 booster dose, make sure to get it immediately to help your body respond to an Omicron infection. Although research shows that neutralizing antibody levels wane after three months, some COVID-19 protection still persists. In the fall, you may be able to get a bivalent booster that provides stronger protection against Omicron.
The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.
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Vaccines Protect Against Infection From Omicron Subvariant But Not For Long
Two doses of an mRNA vaccine such as that made by PfizerBioNTech provide similar protection against two subvariants of SARS-CoV-2.Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty
The Omicron subvariant BA.2 is replacing its sister version, BA.1, as the dominant form of SARS-CoV-2 in many countries, which has led scientists to wonder whether the COVID-19 pandemic is about to throw these regions into disarray yet again. But a study published on 13 March shows that mRNA vaccines offer a similar degree of protection against the two strains although protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection and symptomatic disease wanes within months of a third dose.
The study, published on the preprint server medRxiv, has not yet been peer reviewed.
Researchers have known for months that the BA.1 subvariant evades much of the protection that mRNA vaccines offer against mild-to-moderate disease. Scientists quickly realized that BA.2 spreads more rapidly than BA.1, but it wasnt immediately clear whether the newcomer would also prove to be more adept at evading vaccines.
BA.2 could be even worse than BA.1 this was the fear, says Laith Abu-Raddad, an infectious-diseases epidemiologist at Weill Cornell MedicineQatar in Doha and a co-author of the study.
Will They Be Harmful
Experts are unsure how hard countries will be hit.
BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron are not thought to be any more lethal than other types of Covid.
Lots of people have built up some immunity from past infections and vaccination, which is helping to make the disease less risky overall.
But the new subvariants do appear to be spreading more easily.
This is partly because immunity may be waning, but also because of the mutations the virus has undergone.
Many countries have also lifted their Covid restrictions, meaning people are mixing more, which gives the virus more chances to spread.
BA.4 and BA.5 appear to be able to infect people even if they’ve recently had other types of Omicron.
A wave of new infections could lead to more hospitalisations and some more deaths.
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The Variants And Vaccines
Two variants have raised the most concern in terms of evading immunity: B.1.351 and P.1, which were first identified in South Africa and Brazil, respectively, and which share some of the same genetic changes that partially cloak the viruses from the immune systems fighters.
In clinical trials, someof the vaccines lost efficacy against B.1.351, though certain trials also showed the immunizations could provide enough protection to generally guard against severe disease.
Vaccines Effective Against Most Sars
Two of the commonly used coronavirus vaccines provide protection against multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19, including the highly infectious Delta variant, a new Yale study has found.
The findings, , also show that those infected with the virus prior to vaccination exhibit a more robust immune response to all variants than those who were uninfected and fully vaccinated.
The results come as an increase in so-called breakthrough infections caused by the Delta variant among vaccinated individuals continues to raise questions about whether the vaccines offer broad protection against newly arising variants.
According to the researchers, the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines do bolster the immune systems response to infection.
Vaccines induce high levels of antibodies against Delta and most variants, said Akiko Iwasaki, the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology and co-corresponding author of the paper. And two shots are better than one.
In addition, the results suggest that booster shots can be effective in warding off SARS-CoV-2, the authors say.
The researchers then exposed the volunteers blood samples to 16 different SARS-COV-2 variants, including the Delta variant, the most predominant strain circulating in the United States, and then measured antibody and T cell response to each of the variants.
Other studies have also shown that vaccinated individuals tend to have less severe infections.
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Can Boosters Protect Against Future Variants
Current vaccines work well at preventing serious illness from all coronavirus variants. Experts expect that success to continue. But thereâs no way to know how well vaccines will protect you against variants that donât exist yet.
The CDC keeps a close eye on how effective COVID-19 vaccines are in the real world. Theyâll know if a new variant of concern arises. Some major things they track are rates of:
They also look to see how well vaccines protect:
- Different age groups
- People with other health conditions
- People who got vaccine boosters
The CDC can make changes to protect the public if they notice a big drop in how well vaccines work. They might suggest more booster shots or additional doses in the future. Scientists might also change COVID-19 vaccines to target certain variants.
But so far, no version of the coronavirus is completely resistant to vaccines.
Thereâs evidence that current vaccines might not prevent asymptomatic or mild infections from all coronavirus variants. But they still give you strong protection against serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
What Could This Mean For Covid Vaccination Schedules
Its possible that the U.S will eventually transition to a vaccine schedule similar to its annual approach to influenza, based on the evidence and experience with COVID-19 thus far, , a family physician and chair of the Family and Community Medicine Department at Cook County Health in Chicago, told Verywell.
The flu shot is formulated annually based on the strain that is projected to be in circulation for the flu season. However, COVID-19 is different because it does not follow a fixed seasonal cycle that comes and goes.
Its important to find out whether well continue to need regular COVID-19 boosters in the long run, and if so, whether once a year will be the right schedule, Loafman said.
Overall, COVID-19 vaccines are saving lives and preventing serious illness, especially for those who are boosted, he said. While it is disappointing that vaccines and boosters are not stopping infection as had been hoped, they are still a miracle in terms of preventing death and serious illness.
Loafman emphasized that the protective benefit of vaccines persists even though antibody levels decline a few months after a dose is administered. But we have yet to know how low is too low, or how that may vary person by person.
Time and more clinical trials will help answer these questions.
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