Updated March 15, 2022 at 7:34 pm ET
Imagine if older Americans were forced to weather the last three months without the option of a booster shot. Having an extra vaccine dose during omicron growth reduces the risk of hospitalization and death in the elderly by more than 70 percent. But the extra shots have not yet come close to eliminating the risk: adults aged 65 and over are still hospitalized at almost twice the rate-and are dying at 16 times the age of 18- to 49-year-olds, despite the fact that much fewer seniors Tested positive for the coronavirus.
Even Americans over the age of 65 may feel somewhat nervous in the face of this continuing risk, the potential for reduced immunity, and the apparent onset of a new wave of lawsuits across Europe. Pfizer has asked the FDA to approve a fourth shot for older people today, and that doesn’t stop many older people who already want to do it again. Whether they should do it is a different matter: given that the rate of covid in the United States is quite low at the moment, and we do not yet have a ton of information on the quality (or potential downsides) of extra shots, most seniors should probably wait.
As humans age, our immune systems become as weak as our bones and joints and memory. That’s why older Americans are more at risk for worse results than covid, and that’s why they were the first to qualify for the covid-vaccine booster in the fall. Back then, the CDC’s initial motivation was to reduce immunity to give more shots: several months later, vaccines weren’t working well enough to prevent people, especially the elderly, from getting sick.
Now, at the peak of the vaccine’s efficacy against Omicron, something similar could happen again. In the United Kingdom, the effectiveness of the third Pfizer dose in preventing significant COVID has dropped from 67 to 46 percent within a few months of vaccination. A study has been published The Lancet In late February, blood samples from a small group of older people showed a sharp decline in neutral activity against Omicron three and a half months after the first booster shot. These results are not expected and inherently related. More important and less clear is how much protection against serious illness and hospitalization is declining.
All of these trends are very preliminary, such as data on whether adding another dose actually helps. A survey of Israeli healthcare workers who received a second booster found that antibodies against Omicron had increased eightfold two weeks after the shot was taken. Among Israelis aged 60 and over, who have qualified for a second booster since the beginning of January, those who received it were one-fourth more likely to be hospitalized with severe COVID at the top of the country’s Omicron growth. But no one can say how long that improved security will last.
The question of sustainability may be more important now than in autumn. In September, experts were fairly confident that a winter wave was coming; Even if the boost lasts only five months, say, a senior fresh antibody jabbed in October will probably last through the worst waves. Today, Omicron is retreating in the United States (at least for now), and we are eight months away from the next possible winter wave, and four months away from the summer surge that coincides with 2020 and 2021. But epidemic protection is declining across the country and lawsuits in Europe, What was once a haven for the United States seems to be growing Who’s to say we can’t find ourselves in the middle of a wave anymore? This kind of uncertainty now makes it much harder to predict when older Americans may need an extra booster shot, as doing so means predicting the next peak time.
Faced with this suspicion, a covid-conscious senior may be tempted to raise it now, although their immunity may be low and if the cases start to go upwards they may take another shot in a few months. But such a plan could backfire. John Harry, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania, told me that increasing the frequency of the original-recipe vaccine – which is currently available in the United States – could cause a person’s immune system to respond to newer, less similar variants. As omikron with low power. Also, something better could be right around the corner. Pfizer and Moderna are testing the Omicron-specific booster যদিও although the inadequacy of the preliminary results makes Wherry feel that it is not particularly worth keeping these shots. He is more excited about the possibility of a mucosal vaccine and the recent arrival of the novavax protein-based shot, which has a promising efficacy and safety profile but is still waiting for the FDA’s green light. These alternative designs may be a good match for a mature immune system. (For example, a protein-based shot is almost twice as effective as a live-attenuated vaccine in preventing ringworm in adults.) The only way to know if adults respond better to different types of vaccines is to test it Sliffka told me. “You need to fix each specific bug.”
The fourth shot, then, could give seniors more protection for an unknown period of time against a disease that is currently declining in the United States, and it could do some damage to their protection against that same disease when the case starts to grow again. Lona Modi, an aging specialist at the University of Michigan, told me that she doesn’t think we still have enough data to recommend a second booster for seniors across the board. But if one of his patients feels they have a need – say they have a family event where they will be with a lot of people, some of whom may not be vaccinated – “I will definitely consider it,” he said. Slifka agrees that these decisions should be made in consultation with a physician, and should consider whether a particular senior lives alone or in a cohesive environment, their general health and whether they have a highly-publicized job.
Werry said he would like to see a national surveillance system for covid immunity, where Americans can get periodic immunity checkups of their antibody levels and learn if boosting will do anything for them. “It’s possible both scientifically and medically,” he said. And by studying the resulting data, the CDC can make more informed decisions about when (or not) it will recommend a booster for everyone. For the time being, though, if you are not at particular risk of getting COVID because of where you live or work, there is really no rush.