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Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

Covid 2024 vaccine? Here’s why last year’s result won’t be enough

By meerna Jun12,2024

A nurse administers a pediatric dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to a girl at the LA Care Health Plan vaccination clinic at Los Angeles Mission College in the Sylmar neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, on January 19, 2022. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

This fall, get ready for Whac-a-Mole’s latest round of the Covid-19 vaccine. Just like in the old arcade game, no matter how many shots we fire, the enemy will always jump out.

But here’s why the new shot recommended last week by FDA advisers makes sense: It targets a new version of the virus, the FDA panel said. It strengthens the body’s constantly growing defense system. This is much better than severe illness or hospitalization.

Last year’s shot doesn’t hold up. Protection against both infections and serious diseases wanes.

“Efficacy declined as time since vaccination increased and new SARS-CoV-2 variants emerged,” said biostatistician Danyu Lin of the University of North Carolina School of Global Public Health, who presented the troubling new data to the FDA advisory panel.

Lin’s team found that the old vaccine’s effectiveness peaked a month after the shot. After four weeks, the vaccines were 52.2% effective in preventing infections and 66.8% in preventing hospitalization. After 10 weeks, effectiveness in preventing infections dropped to 32.6%, and effectiveness in preventing hospitalizations dropped to 57.1%.

For comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that for annual flu vaccinations, “the flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor for due to influenza by 40% to 60%.”

Last Wednesday, the FDA’s recommendationers, a panel of physicians from hospitals and universities across the country, voted unanimously in favor of recrecommend a new vaccine. Vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna say they are ready to make updated vaccines available in August, pending final FDA approval. As in previous years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control will provide specific recommendations for the elderly, immunocompromised, adolescents and other groups.

The new vaccine will target a variant of the constantly evolving corona virus called JN.1. Last year’s vaccine was based on the XBB virus line.

Fortunately, the Covid-19 virus is not changing in a way that would make it a serious threat to most people – turning it into something much more deadly, like Ebola. Each new version is a subvariant of the Omicron variant that first emerged in 2021 and, while highly contagious, has not proven to be particularly virulent.

However, this trend is drifting to a lesser extent, complicating our vaccine strategy. The original virus first detected in Wuhan, China, was replaced by the alpha variant, which was replaced by the delta variant, which was replaced by the omicron variant. A subvariant called BA.1 and then BA.2 became the most common version of the omicron in circulation.

Since then, the virus family has continued to multiply and diversify. An evolutionary arms race continues – as the immune system produces new antibodies, the virus develops new mutations. Each iteration aims to offer some advantage, such as the ability to evade the immune system or be extremely contagious.

At the end of 2023, the JN.1 variant overtook the XBB line.

The new vaccination strategy has a flaw: JN.1 may not be the dominant virus by next fall. A subvariant called KP.2 is already growing in popularity. However, the new vaccine formulation is likely to be effective against both strains, and since production takes time, the decision must be made now.

Compared to the results of the original injection, the benefits of the new injection may seem modest. This is because the original vaccines were administered to a completely unprotected population, which carried a high risk of hospitalization and death, Lin said. Now, after four years of vaccinations and infections, the general population is exposed to many threats.

While the vaccine is free for both insured and uninsured people, the cost is still real. The federal government paid an average of $20.69 per dose, and the cost of the new vaccine is likely to be higher. However, vaccines save money by preventing hospitalization, loss of productivity due to illness and a potential long Covid-19 period.

By meerna

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