COVID-19 Roundup: The Unvaccinated 29 Times More Likely to be Hospitalized; and the Latest on Booster Shot Studies

CDC: Los Angeles Study Found That Unvaccinated Were 29 Times More Likely to be Hospitalized

People who are unvaccinated are about 29 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19, compared to those who are fully vaccinated, according to a new study published this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Even with the dominance of the more contagious Delta variant, the unvaccinated were about 5 times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than those who were fully vaccinated, the CDC said.

The highly transmissible Delta variant became the predominant variant in Los Angeles County during the time period of the study, May–July 2021. During this time, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations increased substantially, most notably among unvaccinated persons.

From May 1 through July 25, 2021, researchers monitored 43,127 patients infected with COVID-19 — all of them residents of Los Angeles County, California. Of this group, 10,895 (25.3 percent) were fully vaccinated persons, 1,431 (3.3 percent) were partially vaccinated persons, and 30,801 (71.4 percent) were unvaccinated persons.

The percentage of fully vaccinated Los Angeles County residents increased from 27 percent on May 1, 2021 to 51 percent on July 25, 2021.

“On July 25, infection and hospitalization rates among unvaccinated persons were 4.9 and 29.2 times, respectively, those in fully vaccinated persons,” the CDC concluded.

Although COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective, “some fully vaccinated persons will be infected,” the CDC stipulated, noting the rate of “breakthrough” infections among the fully vaccinated in the study.

But the key takeaway of the L.A. study is this, the CDC states: “The findings in this report are similar to those from recent studies indicating that COVID-19 vaccination protects against severe COVID-19 in areas with increasing prevalence of the Delta variant.

Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson: Booster Shots Bolster Antibodies Substantially in Study Participants  

Johnson & Johnson reports that preliminary research indicates a booster shot of its vaccine raises levels of antibodies against COVID-19 nine-fold, compared to 28 days after the initial dose.

Meanwhile, Pfizer-BioNTech said Wednesday that it has started to seek approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a third dose of its vaccine for those ages 16 and older. Pfizer-BioNTech stated it expects to complete application with the FDA this week.  The companies said a study of 306 volunteers who received a booster shot about five to eight months after their second shot found the level of antibodies increase more than three times higher than the level recorded after the second dose.

In July, Johnson & Johnson reported interim results in data published in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed neutralizing antibody responses from its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine “were strong and stable through eight months after immunization.”

In anticipation of the potential need for boosters, Johnson & Johnson states that new data — which has yet to be peer-reviewed — “demonstrate that a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine generated a rapid and robust increase in spike-binding antibodies.” Johnson & Johnson said the level of antibodies following the booster dose was “nine-fold higher than 28 days after the primary single-dose vaccination.”

“Significant increases in binding antibody responses were observed in participants between ages 18 and 55, and in those 65 years and older who received a lower booster dose,” J&J states in a news release.

Johnson & Johnson said it will submit the data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is evaluating similar booster studies from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. If authorized by the FDA, the federal government hopes to start rolling out booster shots next month to everyone who has been fully vaccinated for eight months.

“We look forward to discussing with public health officials a potential strategy for our Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, boosting eight months or longer after the primary single-dose vaccination,” said Mathai Mammen, M.D., Ph.D., head of Janssen Research & Development for Johnson & Johnson, in a statement.

Early Results of Israeli Study: Third Dose of Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Highly Effective

Early findings from an Israeli study indicates that a booster shot, or third dose, of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech can markedly improve immunity in people 60 years of age or older.

Israel was one of the first nations to authorize a third Pfizer dose. It approved the booster shot in July for the elderly who were fully vaccinated with two shots.

The early study results from Israel’s second largest healthcare provider, Maccabi Health Services, found that booster shots reduced the risk of infection in the those 60 and older by 86 percent, and against severe infection by 92 percent.

Researchers examined the test results from 149,144 people, 60 and older, who received their third dose at least a week ago against the results from 675,630 who had received only two doses, between January and February.

Maccabi Health covers about a quarter of Israel’s 9.3 million population.

U.S. health officials announced last week that third doses of the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines would start to become available in late September, pending approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a formal recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In a phase one trial, a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine generated “significantly higher neutralizing antibody titers against the initial virus, and the Beta and Delta variants, compared to the levels observed after the two-dose primary series,” the companies said in a press release. Participants in the trial received a third shot of the two-dose vaccine about eight to nine months after receiving their second shot, the companies said.

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