COVID-19 Boosters Decrease Mortality by 97 Times and More News

COVID news

The good news is that the Omicron surge appears to be waning in the U.S. The bad news is that a subvariant of Omicron seems to be surging in other countries where the Omicron surge faded. For that and more, continue reading.

Boosted People 97 Times Less Likely to Die of COVID-19 than the Unvaccinated

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pointed out that people in the U.S. who have received their booster shots are 97 times less likely to die of COVID-19 than the unvaccinated, and people with full doses but no boosters are 14 times less likely to die of the disease. For a different perspective, for the unvaccinated, 9.7 out of 100,000 catching the disease die from it; for fully vaccinated, the figure is 0.7 per 100,000; for the fully vaccinated and boosted, it’s 0.1 per 100,000.

The CDC also said the Omicron surge is fading, with new infections across the country down 36% compared to the previous week, with hospitalizations dropping 14, or 446,000 and 17,100, respectively. However, deaths have risen 4% to 2,300 per day. That appears to be related to two factors. First, deaths lag infections by several weeks. And second, the deaths are largely in the unvaccinated.

Which brings up another point by the CDC. The Omicron surge may be waning, but the deaths are expected to rise. The agency predicts up to 75,000 more deaths by February 26.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC, said, “the data are really stunningly obvious why a booster is really very important.”

Although the Omicron surge appears to be fading in the U.S., public health officials are noting that a subvariant of Omicron, BA.2, is surging in Denmark after an initial drop in the surge, and now South Africa is describing the same thing. 

Surgeon General Assures Americans Vaccine for Children Will Be Thoroughly Evaluated

Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, said yesterday during a White House briefing that Pfizer and BioNTech’s submission for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) will “undergo the same independent, rigorous and transparent review process” that the FDA used when authorizing the vaccines for adults. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that about 30% of parents of children younger than five years of age say they plan to vaccinate their kids as soon as the shots are available for that age group. The two companies have submitted the EUA but are still researching whether three doses would work better for that age group. 

The FDA had encouraged Pfizer and BioNTech to submit the EUA request even though the studies of the two doses in children two to four years of age didn’t provide the immune response they were looking for. Only children from six months to two years did. 

It’s a puzzling story, though, with the FDA encouraging an EUA submission in the face of unfinished clinical trials. The FDA’s advisory panel meeting is scheduled for February 15. As The Atlantic notes, “Somehow, we’ve gone in an instant from two doses aren’t enough to actually, they kind of are.”

Dr. Chandy John, a pediatric infection disease physician and malaria researcher at Indiana University, mused, “It’s an odd message; We think you’re going to need a third dose but take two now.”

It’s possible that the data Pfizer and BioNTech have accumulated since their initial December announcement suggests the two-dose regimen works better than expected, but the company hasn’t publicly released that data.  

FDA Clears Pardes’ Oral COVID-19 Antiviral for Phase I Trials

The U.S.FDA gave Pardes Biosciences the green light to initiate a Phase I trial of PBI-0451, its oral antiviral drug candidate to treat and prevent COVID-19. It is currently in a Phase I study in Nez Zealand. They also hope to launch global Phase II/III trials in mid-2022. The drug is a direct-acting inhibitor of the main protease (Mpro).

Intranasal Boosters May Be Better

Currently, all the COVID-19 vaccines around the world are injections. But a number of companies, such as India’s Bharat Biotech, are working on intranasal vaccines that could be used as a standalone two-dose regimen or as a booster to be used after receiving other vaccines. An obvious appeal is it’s not a shot — some people are needle-shy. Another is that for pathogens that invade the airway, such as SARS-CoV-2. It is also thought that intranasal vaccines act against the virus from the first time it enters the body, which would be more effective than intramuscular injection so in most cases. They also stimulate other immune cells found around mucosal tissues, such as B cells that generate IgAs, which significantly destroy pathogens in the airways. At this time, studies are ongoing.

High BMI Associated with COVID-19 Deaths More in Racial Minorities

Early in the pandemic, obesity, specifically a high body mass index (BMI) was more strongly associated with deaths in COVID-19. New research found that this is more strongly associated with racial minorities than with White patients. 

The study was led by the University of Leicester in England using data from the electronic health records, census and death data of 12.6 million adults 40 years of age or older. It’s not dramatic, however. Of 33,951 deaths, 0.29% were Black or South Asians, 0.27% were White, and 0.18% were other races. BMI was associated with death in all.

Texas Tech to Test Ivermectin for COVID-19 Treatment

Texas Tech University Health Science Center (TTUHSC) is now a national study test site for evaluating FDA-approved drugs for COVID-19, one of which is Ivermectin. The study’s goal is to evaluate existing drugs used for other treatments to see if they can prevent hospitalizations and other COVID-19 symptoms.

Dr. Ed Michelson, Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at TTUHSC El Paso, said, “It looks like Ivermectin is helpful to fight the virus in the petri dish; what we want to know is, in U.S. citizens’, in real life, does taking Ivermectin to shorten the disease, and does it help people stay out of the hospital.” They will also be evaluating other drugs, such as Fluvoxamine, used for psychiatric care, and Fluticasone, an inhaled steroid.

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