November 7, 2022 – If you’re among the 92% or so of Americans who have yet to get a bivalent COVID-19 booster, here’s some news to consider. The company says that the updated Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine leads to a stronger immune response than the fourth dose of the original vaccine.
This evidence supports obtaining this Omicron booster before a potential COVID-19 rush this winter.
The bivalent vaccine provides the strongest protection for people over 55 years of age. One month after receiving the booster vaccine, those in this age group had four times more neutralizing antibodies against Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants than those who received the original vaccine as the booster.
The researchers compared the equation of antibody levels before and after the booster in different age groups. They found that levels increased 13 times in the 36 people in the study older than 55 and about 10 times in 38 people between the ages of 18 and 55. In contrast, levels tripled in the group of 40 people who received the original vaccine as a booster.
The bivalent product contains two strains of the vaccine – one to protect against the original COVID-19 virus and one to protect against these sub-variants of Omicron.
The newly released data is “very encouraging and now consistent with three studies showing a significant three to fourfold increase of neutralizing antibodies against BA.5 compared to the original booster,” says Eric Topol, MD, director of Scripps Research. The Translational Institute in La Jolla, California, and editor-in-chief of Medscape, WebMD’s sister site.
Pfizer/BioNTech announces updated results in a November 4 press release.
The bivalent vaccine is approved for emergency use in people 5 years of age and older. CDC بيانات data This week showed that 8.4% of eligible Americans had received the bivalent vaccine. The agency also estimates that about 2,500 Americans die from COVID each week.
The company says the safety profile of the Pfizer/BioNTech bivalent booster remains favorable and similar to the original COVID-19 vaccine.
Until recently, the BA.5 Omicron variant was the dominant strain in the United States, but now it outperforms the BQ.1.1, BQ.1 and BA.4.6 sub variants, which together they make up nearly 45% of the spreading virus.
“It is important to note that this data is the level of press release, which does not allow to see the entirety of the data,” says Hana Al-Sahli, professor of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.
“For example, there may be significant differences between groups, and the release cites at least one difference of importance: the time interval since the last vaccination, which often affects response to subsequent reinforcement,” she says. Al-Sahli says the results are not surprising.
“In the short term, a specific variant vaccine produces a higher level of antibodies against the variant in the vaccine than vaccines based on ancestral strains.”
More search results are warranted.
“These data do not indicate that these differences between the two vaccines translate into a meaningful clinical benefit at the population level,” Sahli says.
An uncertain winter is coming
“As we head into the holiday season, we hope this updated data will encourage people to seek out a COVID-19 bivalent enhancer as soon as they are eligible in order to maintain high levels of protection against the widespread Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, Albert Burla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO, said in the press release.
Topol says the updated data from the Pfizer/BioNTech study is “one more reason to get a booster, with additional protection also against BQ.1.1, which will soon become prevalent in the US.”
Sahli says it’s unclear when the next surge will occur, because COVID-19 doesn’t always follow a seasonal pattern — at least not yet.
“Regardless, it is reasonable to recommend additional vaccine doses for immunocompromised and vulnerable people or the elderly. Most importantly, influenza vaccination and keeping up with pneumococcal vaccinations are highly recommended as soon as possible, given the early and intense influenza season.”