WASHINGTON — A new study from Pfizer and BioNTech suggests their updated coronavirus booster released in September is nearly four times more effective than its predecessor at boosting antibodies against the currently dominant version of the virus for people over 55. .
Federal officials hope the encouraging results will bolster what has so far been a dismal public response to the revamped firings. Only about 8% of Americans ages 5 and older received the new boosters from Pfizer and Moderna, which are recommended for people in that age group who have had a first round of vaccination.
Pfizer and BioNTech announced the study results in a press release. The companies said that a month after receiving the new booster, clinical trial participants over the age of 55 had antibody levels 3.8 times higher than those who received the original booster. The number of study participants was small, with 36 people receiving the new booster and 40 receiving the old one.
The control group included only older adults, and results so far are limited to one month after injection. The results of a similar clinical trial conducted by Moderna are expected shortly.
Biden administration officials called the results good news in the battle against Covid-19, but it remains to be seen whether many Americans will care much. As the pandemic nears the three-year mark, the public seems deeply weary of Covid vaccinations. In a September Kaiser Family Foundation poll, one in five adults said they hadn’t even heard of the new boosters.
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“People just went offline,” said Michael Fraser, chief executive of the Association of State and Territory Health Officials. “Which is totally unfortunate and not where you want to be.”
Administration officials said the study results offer Americans a new reason to seek out the updated snaps ahead of what experts fear could be a winter surge of the virus that would lead to tens of thousands of deaths. unnecessary.
“You can see the train coming down the tracks,” said Dr. Peter Marks, the lead vaccine regulator for the Food and Drug Administration. “Now is the time to get off the tracks, not when you can smell the oil from the train engine.”
Pfizer said study participants in the control group received a booster about six months earlier, while those who received the updated vaccine received their last booster 11 months earlier. Both groups had similar antibody levels before receiving the new booster.
The updated plan targets the version of the virus that now occupies the most prominent position in the United States, a subvariant of Omicron known as BA.5. But by next month, a new sub-variant of Omicron is expected to become mainstream.
Administration officials say these sub-variants are structurally similar enough that updated plans continue to provide powerful protection. Dr Marks said he expected some reduction in boosters’ ability to neutralize the virus, but their overall benefits would hold.
While urging Americans to get the updated snaps, Biden administration officials are not touting them as a definitive response to the pandemic. For two years, the administration has engaged in a continual game of catching up. By the time scientists revised the vaccine to protect against the new incarnation of the virus, it had already shifted to another form.
This reality, some experts say, may be part of the reason Americans are showing diminished enthusiasm for every additional shot. So far, the administration has not persuaded Congress to allocate more money to develop the next generation of vaccines that could end the cycle behind the curve.
When asked if positive clinical trial results would help spark interest in recalls, Dallas County Health Director Dr. Philip Huang, Texas, said: “Anything that further strengthens the people who are on the fence or who are delaying always helps.” But, he said, “if there’s an increase in hospitalizations and serious illnesses, that’s when people start to take it seriously.”
“It’s a shame that’s what it takes to get motivated,” he added.
Some public health experts say President Biden himself undermined any sense of urgency when he said in a television interview in September that “the pandemic is over.” Last week, he tried to draw attention to the new snaps by getting his own dose on camera.
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