COVID-19 News: Vaccines Prevented 1.1 Million U.S. Deaths and More
It is not easy to understand just how impressive the speedy development of COVID-19 vaccines and their unusually high level of efficacy actually are. But a recent study estimates that in the U.S. alone the vaccines saved 1.1 million lives and prevented 10.3 million hospitalizations. For that and more COVID-19 news, continue reading.
COVID-19 Vaccines Prevented 1.1 Million Deaths and 10.3 Million Hospitalizations
A Commonwealth Fund study estimates that the U.S. COVID-19 vaccination program in the country prevented 1.1 million deaths in and 10.3 million hospitalizations. They believe that deaths would have been about 3.2 times higher and hospitalizations about 4.9 times higher without it. Considering that there have been 800,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. alone, even with the vaccines, the study is a stark reminder of the importance of vaccines in ending the pandemic.
“The majority of these averted deaths and hospitalizations would have occurred during the last summer and early autumn, as the highly contagious Delta variant began to surge in southern states and spread to other parts of the U.S.,” the authors wrote.
Regeneron’s Experimental Antibody Cocktails Effective Against Omicron
Regeneron reported that its antibody cocktail, REGEN-COV (casirivimab and imdevimab), was not as effective against the Omicron variant but was against Delta. They also confirmed that they had tested multiple “next generation” monoclonal antibodies from its library and have identified several that are effective against Omicron, Delta and other variants of concern. They hope to begin clinical trials in the first quarter of 2022.
Moderna’s Vaccine Booster Works Against Omicron
Like most other vaccines and antibody treatments, Moderna's mRNA vaccine against COVID-19 loses efficacy with two shots against the Omicron variant, but appears to regain effectiveness after a third booster dose. A preliminary laboratory study in blood samples from 30 people who had two doses found their antibody levels were 50 times less effective against Omicron. However, in another 17 people who had a third booster shot, the antibodies were at highly effective against Omicron.
Two new studies also found that Moderna’s vaccine was effective against Delta, but that protection dropped over time, particularly in older people. This data supports the needs for a third booster shot.
CDC Considers J&J Vaccine’s Blood-Clotting Risks
Advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are meeting today to discuss whether to place limits on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine because of continuing issues related to blood clots. In April, use of the vaccine was halted for 10 days to investigate rare but severe forms of blood clots in at least six women. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is expected to present new data showing the rate of clots has increased since April, although it is still rare. There have been nine deaths related to the issue.
Variant-Specific Booster Deemed Unnecessary at This Time
One of the selling points of the mRNA vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna was that they could be easily modified if necessary. But they didn’t feel the need to do so for the Delta variant. Instead, they are depending upon booster shots to increase efficacy against the more virulent strains. And at this time, that’s what public health officials and vaccine makers are saying about the Omicron variant.
“At this point there is no need for a variant-specific booster,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases and the Biden Administration’s Chief Medical Advisor.
A Push for a Universal Coronavirus Vaccine
Top federal researchers, including Anthony Fauci, described a pathway to developing universal coronavirus vaccines in the New England Journal of Medicine. They say researchers around the world should “fully commit” to creating a “second-generation” of vaccines against coronaviruses that would offer a broad protection against them. Not only is COVID-19 in this category, but SARS and MERS, and a variety of cold and influenza-like illnesses.
It’s not as easy as just doing it, though. Fauci told The Washington Post, “We are certainly making it a high priority. There are fundamental scientific challenges before you can actually make a full-court press on this. It isn’t as if you have a clear pathway into a product and all you have to do is dump more resources into it.”