New booster falls short on US protection against COVID: CDC report

Americans who got their COVID-19 bivalent booster vaccine are not fully protected against getting sick, according to a new report.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report that said the updated boosters were just 48% effective at preventing symptomatic infection from the XBB variant of the disease.

The World Health Organization has a 50% threshold to deem a vaccine effective — meaning the bivalent shots fall just below their benchmark when targeting the dominant XBB strain.

However, the CDC noted that the main function of the vaccine is to prevent hospitalization and death, rather than transmission and minor illness from the virus — and the booster is still expected to provide protection against severe sickness.

Indeed, a 2022 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that if you had been infected with COVID before, that gave you 46.1% effective protection against the omicron variant of the disease — while having a previous infection as well as two doses of a vaccine protected you against infection at 55.1%. Meanwhile, having a previous infection and three doses of a vaccine brought you to 77.3%.

Researchers at the CDC compiled data from a government COVID testing initiative conducted between Dec. 1, 2022, and Jan. 13, 2023 — when XBB and XBB.1.5 were the dominant strains. Symptomatic infection was defined by the person having one or more symptoms.

Researchers determined whether the tested people were vaccinated and compared it to overall population vaccine data, finding that the people who received the booster were 48% more protected than those who did not get it.

Only 15% of the US population has received the bivalent booster, according to the CDC.
REUTERS/Hannah Beier/File Photo

Only 15% of the US population has received the bivalent booster, according to the CDC.

The bivalent booster was the fourth or fifth dose of the vaccine for most participants, and it was between 40% and 50% effective for up to three months after receiving it in almost all age groups. 

Effectiveness against XBB and its subvariants is just slightly lower than the vaccine’s 52% effectiveness against the BA.5 variant, or omicron.

Some scientists even called the highly mutated variant the most vaccine-resistant strain ever.

The CDC found that about half of those who received the booster went on to test positive for COVID. However, the updated booster vaccine reduced the risk of death from COVID by more than twofold compared to vaccinated people without the bivalent booster, and by nearly 13-fold for those who have never been vaccinated for COVID.

Overall, the shot cuts the risk of symptomatic infection by about half, but people will see different results and benefits based on risk factors, said Ruth Link-Gelles, author of the study.

A sign at Grand Central Station encourages New Yorkers to have a COVID-19 treatment plan in New York, New York, USA, 10 January 2023. The latest COVID-19 variant, known as XBB.1.5, has quickly been spreading in New York City and across the nation. The World Health Organization confirmed last week it is the most transmissible variant found yet.
As of mid-January, the XBB.1.5 subvariant made up 49% of the CDC-sequenced COVID cases — and it’s expected to have risen since.

In 2020, the original Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines reduced symptomatic infections by 95%, as seen in clinical trials.

But as COVID continued to mutate and new variants were formed, the shots began to lose their strength.

The vaccines fell to 36% effective at preventing illness by the time the first omicron variant became the main strain in late 2021.

Omicron and its subvariants led the vaccine producers to make updated shots to specifically target the new dominant variant. The bivalent booster shots were designed to boost immunity against omicron.

The omicron boosters contained the variant’s genetic code as well as a piece of the original strain.

COVID-19 Coronavirus molecule, March 24, 2020
The CDC report did show that the updated booster shot helped prevent illness in about half of the people who previously received two to four doses of the vaccine.
CDC/API/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

As of mid-January, the XBB.1.5 subvariant made up 49% of CDC-sequenced COVID cases — and that’s expected to have risen since.

Despite a seemingly lower effectiveness rate, the CDC said that hospitalizations and deaths are still limited, and the vaccine rollout has been deemed a success. 

This article was originally posted by The New York Post.

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Written by New York Post

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