Saturday, September 10, 2022

The new Covid boosters

As you must be aware, the U.S. FDA recently approved (on August 31) a new booster shot against Covid-19, The bivalent vaccines, which are updated boosters, contain two messenger RNA (mRNA) components of the virus: one of the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 and the other, one that is common between the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the most recent strains of the virus that are circulating.

Should you get one? Some facts:

The first is that the mRNA vaccines have been remarkably effective. While they do not necessarily mean you will not catch the virus, they dramatically reduce your chances of getting very sick or dying from it. Hospitalization rates were over 10 times commoner in unvaccinated people. Vaccinated people who are sick enough to require hospital care are overwhelmingly the elderly and those with multiple other medical illnesses.

While any vaccination helps, the best protection is offered by having the original two shots plus 1 or 2 boosters.

If you have not had your 3rd or 4th shot, the new vaccines will now be the only ones offered.

While the new vaccines have been shown in mice to produce good antibodies against the current Omicron strains, their effectiveness at preventing disease in humans has not been fully studied.

My take: if you have been fully vaccinated – 4 shots – I would be in no rush and would wait for more human studies to be reported. If you have not yet had your boosters, get one!

Also: everything we know tells us that this winter is likely to be a bad flu season. There was severe influenza in the southern hemisphere during their just-finishing winter and that is often an early warning about what we will experience.

The much-discussed mask wearing of last winter had a spin-off benefit: much less respiratory illness in general, including influenza. As people have begun to stop wearing masks, this extra layer of protection will be gone.

Get your flu vaccine before the end of October.

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