November 7, 2022 – If you’re one of the 92% or so of Americans who haven’t gotten a bivalent COVID-19 booster, here’s some news to consider. The company said the updated Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine elicited a stronger immune response than the fourth dose of the original vaccine.
This evidence supports getting this Omicron-specific booster ahead of a potential COVID-19 surge this winter.
The bivalent vaccine provides the strongest protection in people over the age of 55. One month after receiving the booster, people in this age group had four times as many neutralizing antibodies against the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants than others who received the original vaccine as an adjuvant vaccine. booster.
The researchers compared neutralizing antibody levels in different age groups before and after the booster immunization. They found that 36 people over the age of 55 in the study had a 13-fold increase in levels, while 38 people between the ages of 18 and 55 had an almost 10-fold increase. In contrast, the 40 people who received the original vaccine had a three-fold increase in levels. booster.
The bivalent product contains two vaccine strains – one to protect against the original COVID-19 virus and one to protect against these Omicron sub-variants.
Eric Topol, MD, director of Scripps Research, said the newly released data “is now very encouraging and consistent with three studies, all of which showed higher levels of neutralizing antibodies compared to BA. Boosters increased 3 to 4 times,” said the Translational Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., editor-in-chief of Medscape, WebMD’s sister site.
Pfizer/BioNTech announce latest findings in a report November 4 Press Release.
The bivalent vaccine has been approved for emergency use in people 5 years of age and older. CDC data This week showed that 8.4% of eligible Americans received the bivalent vaccine. The agency also estimates that about 2,500 Americans die each week from the virus.
The company said the safety profile of the Pfizer/BioNTech bivalent booster remains favorable, similar to the original COVID-19 vaccine.
Until recently, the BA.5 Omicron variant was the dominant strain in the US, but now the quilt variants BQ.1.1, BQ.1 and BA.4.6 are excluded nearly 45% epidemic virus.
“It’s important to note that these data are at the press release level, and there’s no way to look at the data as a whole,” said Hana El Sahly, MD, 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 mentions at least one important difference: the interval since the last vaccination, which often affects the response to subsequent booster immunizations,” she said. The findings aren’t surprising, El Sahly said.
“In the short term, a variant-specific vaccine produces higher levels of antibodies against the variant in the vaccine than a vaccine based on the ancestral strain.”
More research results are needed.
“These data do not suggest that these differences between the two vaccines translate into meaningful clinical benefit at the population level,” El Sahly said.
An uncertain winter ahead
“As we head into the holiday season, we hope that these updated data will encourage people to seek out COVID-19 bivalent enhancers as soon as possible to maintain high levels of protection against the widespread Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, Pfizer Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said in a press release.
Updated data from the Pfizer/BioNTech study “makes more of a case for a booster, which will also increase protection compared to BQ.1.1, which will soon dominate in the U.S.,” Topol said.
It’s unclear when the next surge will occur, El Sahly said, because COVID-19 doesn’t always follow a seasonal pattern — at least not yet.
“In any event, it is reasonable to recommend additional vaccine doses for the immunocompromised, frail, or elderly. More importantly, given the early and intense nature of the flu season, early influenza vaccination and timely pneumococcal vaccination are strongly recommended.”