COVID-19 Update: Pfizer Requests Broad Booster Authorization, Long COVID Questioned

COVID-19 Update

A study by Pfizer and BioNTech found that the booster shots of their COVID-19 vaccine improve efficacy to 95%. Since data weren't available in September when they approached regulators about booster shots for all adults, they’re trying again. Here’s a look at that and more COVID-19 news.

Pfizer Requests Booster Authorization for All Adults

Pfizer and BioNTech requested the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorize booster shots for their COVID-19 vaccine for all adults 18 years and older. It is currently authorized as a booster for certain groups of people six months after their second dose. This includes people over the age of 65, people with suppressed immune systems or specific health conditions, and adults whose life or work environment places them at high risk of COVID-19.

According to The New York Times, the FDA is expected to approve the request, possibly before Thanksgiving. Several members of the FDA’s vaccines advisory committee have questioned the need for young, healthy people to receive boosters. Israel is offering boosters to everyone 12 years and older. Yesterday, Canada authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech booster for everyone 18 and older.

Pfizer and BioNTech indicate that, in a study of more than 10,000 people,, the booster improved the vaccine’s efficacy to 95% or greater. They had made a similar request in September, but the vaccines advisory committee had voted against it, recommending instead it be offered to people older than 65, younger people with underlying medical conditions, or people a job or living situation that placed them at greater risk. However, the new study was not available at that time.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 25 million people in the U.S. have received a booster shot, with more than 30% of people 65 and older have received it.

Long COVID-19 Symptoms Might be the Result of Something Besides COVID-19

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine by French researchers found that 20 persistent physical symptoms reported by adults claiming long-hauler COVID-19 were generally not associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Of the 20 symptoms, only one was tied to COVID-19 infection, loss of sense of smell, per the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. The investigators said these results don’t undermine the symptoms but reflect the importance of considering all possible causes as well as COVID-19. Those other causes could be other diseases, anxiety, or “deconditioning.”

The research team analyzed blood samples from 26,823 adults in France. They also completed questionnaires about COVID-19 infection, symptoms that lasted more than eight weeks, and whether they believed the symptoms were associated with the disease. The only lingering physical symptoms clearly associated with COVID-19 were loss of smell. In many cases, the test results suggested the people who complained of long COVID never had a diagnosis of COVID-19.

COVID-19 Virus May Be Common in Bats in Southeast Asia

A new study published in Nature Communication’s found a coronavirus that shared 92.6% of the nucleotide identity with SARS-CoV-2 was found in bats in Cambodia in 2010. Prior to the study, the closest genetic relatives to the COVID-19 virus were obtained from horseshoe bats found in southern China’s Yunnan province. This new study suggests that coronaviruses in bats may be much more widespread globally than previously thought.

Gritstone Reports Positive Preclinical Data in Non-Human Primate Second-Gen Vaccine

Gritstone Bio, based in Emeryville, Calif., published positive preclinical data on the results of tests of its second-generation COVID-19 vaccine in non-human primates. These were challenge studies, where the rhesus macaques were given the vaccine, then later dosed with SARS-CoV-2. The vaccine protected the primates against infection.

The vaccine is a self-amplifying mRNA (SAM) vaccine. The SAM vaccine encodes a prefusion stabilized SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein and highly conserved T-cell antigens derived from other viral genes of the virus within either a self-amplifying mRNA lipid nanoparticle or a ChAd, an adenoviral vector.

“Advancing new vaccine strategies, like our SAM platform, may help avoid further propagation and mutation of SARS-CoV-2 and potentially address delays in global vaccination,” said Andrew Allen, M.D., Ph.D., co-founder, president, and chief executive officer of Gritstone. “These data, combined with clinical data we are currently generating, continue to validate the concept of broad and potent T cell and neutralizing antibody responses following SAM as a two-dose regimen, or as a boost following an initial ChAd dose.”

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