Science

Roundup: Latest on Approved 2nd Boosters; Alcohol-Related Deaths Spike During Pandemic; and More

2nd Booster of Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Authorized: What You Need to Know

People age 50 and older are eligible for a second booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine — at least four months after their first booster, according to authorizations provided this week by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The FDA said the evidence considered before authorization of a second booster “included safety and immune response information provided to the agency as well as additional information on effectiveness submitted by the companies.”

Second booster doses are “especially important for those 65 and older and those 50 and older with underlying medical conditions that increase their risk for severe disease from COVID-19 as they are the most likely to benefit from receiving an additional booster dose at this time,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., said in a statement.

Consult with your physician if you are uncertain about additional boosters. Here’s the breakdown from the FDA:

  • A second booster of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine may be administered to individuals 50 years of age and older — at least 4 months after getting the first booster dose of any authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine.
  • A second booster of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may be administered to individuals 12 years of age and older who are immunocompromised at least 4 months after receipt of a first booster dose of any authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine. “These are people who have undergone solid organ transplantation, or who are living with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise,” the FDA states.
  • A second booster of the Moderna vaccine may be administered at least 4 months after the first booster dose of any authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine to individuals 18 years of age and older with the same certain kinds of immunocompromise.

Adults who received a primary shot and booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least four months ago may now get a second booster dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.


NIH Study: Alcohol-Related Deaths Up Significantly During Pandemic’s First Year

The number of adults in the U.S. who died of alcohol-related causes increased substantially during the first year of the pandemic, mostly as a result of increased drinking to cope with pandemic-related stress and disrupted treatment access during 2020, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The number and rate of alcohol-related deaths increased approximately 25% between 2019 and 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the study states. Rates increased prior to the pandemic, but less rapidly — 2.2 percent mean annual change between 1999 and 2017, researchers said. The rate increase for alcohol-related deaths in 2020 outpaced the increase in all-cause mortality (the death rate from all causes of death for a population in a given time period) — which was 16.6 percent, the study states.

“Deaths involving alcohol reflect hidden tolls of the pandemic,” the study’s authors write. “Increased drinking to cope with pandemic-related stressors, shifting alcohol policies, and disrupted treatment access are all possible contributing factors. Whether alcohol-related deaths will decline as the pandemic wanes, and whether policy changes could help reduce such deaths, warrants consideration.”

The study, which was conducted by researchers with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), reviewed data from death certificates. Alcohol-related deaths included those where alcohol was listed as an underlying or contributing cause.

Researchers found that among adults younger than 65, alcohol-related deaths were higher than deaths from COVID-19 in 2020 — 74,408 individuals ages 16 to 64 died of alcohol-related causes, while 74,075 persons under 65 died of COVID-19, the study concluded.

(Be sure to follow us on Instagram for an open conversation on alcohol — its effects, signs someone might be dependent, and how alcohol dependency has changed in a COVID-19 landscape. Tune in April 13 at 12:30 p.m.)


Those Who First Got J&J Vaccine Should Consider mRNA Booster Shots, New CDC Data Says

The latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that those who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine should get a booster with one of the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

The roughly 17 million U.S. adults who received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine are less protected against serious illness and hospitalizations, compared to those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shots, said the new data conducted by researchers across 10 states.

The study is the first to analyze “mix-and-match” vaccine booster combinations during a four-month period when the highly transmissible omicron variant was dominant.

Researchers reviewed 80,287 emergency department and urgent care visits across 10 states from December to March. They found that two Johnson & Johnson doses were 54 percent effective in preventing COVID-19-related visits to emergency departments or urgent care facilities — compared to 79 percent after one Johnson & Johnson dose and one dose of either of the mRNA vaccines. That’s comparable to the effectiveness provided by three shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, the CDC states.

Based on this CDC data, public health officials urge those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine initially to get a booster with one of the mRNA vaccines, if you haven’t already done so. A second mRNA boost from Pfizer and Moderna is also recommended for the best protection.

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