The research on Covid Booster Shots is contradicting

The research on Covid Booster Shots is contradicting

Advisors to the Food and Drug Administration questioned an important statement made by researchers in Israel and the pharmaceutical company Pfizer on Friday: that its coronavirus vaccine declines not only against infection, but also against serious illness and hospitalization.

The counselors met to review Pfizer’s application to allow booster doses for all Americans 16 and older. Some of the details that have emerged during the lively debate include: Israel and the United States define major illnesses differently.

In Israel, anyone with an accelerated breathing rate and oxygen levels below 94 percent is seriously ill. In contrast, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider people sick enough to be hospitalized as a serious illness, said Dr. Sara Oliver, a CDC scientist, at the advisory committee meeting.

The discrepancy could help explain why the two countries reported very different results in fully vaccinated people.

Israeli researchers said they saw large numbers of patients in the hospital who had received two doses two months earlier. But in the United States, the CDC has reported that vaccinated patients make up only 2 percent of the people hospitalized for Covid-19.

This is just one of many scientific discrepancies that came to light this week.

On Monday, an international team of scientists analyzed dozens of studies in The Lancet magazine and concluded that boosters are not yet needed by the general population and that the world would be better served if the billions of people protected by vaccine doses remained unvaccinated.

On Wednesday, FDA scientists published an online assessment suggesting they, too, are not convinced that there is enough evidence that boosters are needed.

“Overall, the data indicate that Covid-19 vaccines currently licensed or approved in the United States still offer protection against severe Covid-19 disease and death,” it says in its summary.

But some FDA executives have publicly endorsed booster vaccinations. “The need for an additional dose after six months to provide longer-term protection should come as no surprise as it is likely to be required for the formation of a mature immune response,” Dr. Peter Marks, one of the agency’s top officials, said at the meeting on Friday.

Concerned by the increase in cases, Israeli officials have offered a third dose of the vaccine to anyone over the age of 12. Researchers from Israel published the first results of this introduction in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday – but few outside scientists found the study convincing.

The team collected data on the effects of the booster from the health records of more than 1.1 million people over 60. At least 12 days after the booster, infection rates were eleven times lower – and severe illness rates nearly twenty times lower – in those cases requiring a booster compared to those who received only two doses, the researchers found.

The results aren’t surprising, experts said, and don’t suggest any long-term benefit.

Credit…Amr Alfiky / The New York Times

“We have known for some time that the vaccines produce less robust immune responses in the elderly,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, Infectious Disease Specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center and former advisor to the Biden Administration. “The recommendation of additional vaccination doses for older people is not controversial.”

In all studies published so far, the vaccine effectively protects against serious illness and hospitalization in the vast majority of people, experts said. But the vaccines appear to be less effective against infections in people of all ages, especially those exposed to the highly contagious Delta variant.

The cumulative data so far suggests that only older adults need boosters, a view underscored by the FDA’s advisory committee, which voted on Friday to advocate boosters only for Americans 65 and older and those at risk for serious illness .

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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