Updated COVID booster shots reduce risk of hospitalization, CDC reports: NPR


A fourth Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is administered at Dr. Kenneth Williams Health Center in Los Angeles on November 1.

Damien Dovarganes/AP


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Damien Dovarganes/AP

Updated COVID booster shots reduce risk of hospitalization, CDC reports: NPR

A fourth Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is administered at Dr. Kenneth Williams Health Center in Los Angeles on November 1.

Damien Dovarganes/AP

The new bivalent COVID boosters are more effective at reducing the risk of hospitalization than boosters of the original vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday in two new studies.

The CDC recommended a bivalent booster in September to better protect against the omicron variant. The new booster targets a component of the omicron variant and a component of the original viral strain to provide both broad and omicron-specific protection.

Two small studies from Columbia University and Harvard University in October suggested that the new vaccines did not produce a better antibody response against the omicron BA.5 variant than the boosters of the original vaccines.

But the CDC on Friday released two studies detailing the effectiveness of the bivalent vaccine against COVID-related ER visits and hospitalizations and the effectiveness against hospitalization especially in the elderly.

The first study was conducted from September 13 to November 18 in seven health systems when the omicron BA.5 variant, one of the targets of bivalent injections, was the most dominant variant.

People who received the bivalent booster had a 57% lower risk of hospitalization than unvaccinated people and 45% lower risk of hospitalization than people who received two to four doses of the original vaccine and received their last shot 11 months or more earlier. The risk of hospitalization after the bivalent booster was 38% lower than for people who received two to four doses of the original vaccine and whose last dose was five to seven months earlier.

The study has several limitations, including not accounting for prior infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The second study, which looked at adults 65 and older, was conducted from September 8 to November 30 at 22 hospitals across the country.

Older people who received the updated booster a week or more before illness onset had an 84% lower risk of hospitalization than unvaccinated people and 73% lower risk than people who received at least two doses of the original vaccines. The study was also unable to analyze the effect of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.

“These early findings show that a bivalent booster dose provided strong protection against COVID-19-associated hospitalization in the elderly and additional protection in people who had previously received a monovalent mRNA-only vaccination,” according to this report. study. “All eligible individuals, especially adults ≥65 years of age, should receive a bivalent booster dose to maximize protection against COVID-19 hospitalization this winter.”

However, only 14% of people aged 5 and over received the updated reminder. Experts attribute the low vaccination rate to pandemic fatigue and a desire to get out of the pandemic.

“I think it’s going to be an uphill battle,” Jennifer Kates, senior vice president and director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told NPR in September. “I think it’s a tough sell just because of where we are at this stage of the pandemic.”

It’s unclear how well the boosters work against the new BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 variants, which are more evasive than the BA.5 variant.


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