More antibodies present months after booster
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A new study shows high levels of coronavirus antibodies that fight the omicron variant four months after a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine, a positive sign for the durability of a booster shot’s effectiveness.
The study from researchers at Pfizer, BioNTech and the University of Texas Medical Branch shows virus-fighting antibodies enduring four months after the third dose, helping answer the key question of how long protection from the booster shot lasts.
Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research, tweeted in response to the study that antibody levels were “unexpectedly still quite high” after four months, “which is great.”
Takeaway: The results add to a growing body of evidence on the importance of booster shots, which health officials are urging people to get in the face of a surge from the omicron variant.
Last week, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that a third shot was 90 percent effective against hospitalization, compared to just 57 percent effectiveness against omicron for someone who is six months past their second shot.
Remaining question: There is still an open question as to how long protection from a booster shot will last beyond four months. That information would help inform whether and when a fourth shot might be needed.
Pfizer said Monday it would be evaluating “an additional dose of both the current formulation and an Omicron based vaccine,” going forward.
FDA limits use of two antibody treatments
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday significantly restricted the use of a pair of monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19 because they are ineffective against the omicron.
The agency said the therapies made by Eli Lilly and Regeneron should only be used in patients who have been infected with or exposed to a variant that is susceptible to the treatments.
“Because data show these treatments are highly unlikely to be active against the omicron variant, which is circulating at a very high frequency throughout the United States, these treatments are not authorized for use in any U.S. states, territories, and jurisdictions at this time,” the FDA said.
The omicron variant began spreading across the U.S. in late November, and now accounts for more than 99 percent of infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As a result, the FDA noted that “it’s highly unlikely that COVID-19 patients seeking care in the U.S. at this time are infected with a variant other than omicron.”
Not revoked: However, the agency did not revoke the emergency authorization because regulators want to be able to use the drugs again if the situation arises.
“In the future, if patients in certain geographic regions are likely to be infected or exposed to a variant that is susceptible to these treatments, then use of these treatments may be authorized in these regions,” FDA said.
There are others: Hospitals and physicians have other options available. The antibody treatment now most recommended is sotrovimab, from GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology. The administration will also continue to allocate doses of Pfizer’s antiviral drug Paxlovid, as well as one made by Merck called molnupiravir. However, both Paxlovid and sotrovimab are in short supply.
A ‘CRITICAL JUNCTURE’ IN THE PANDEMIC
The director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday encouraged countries to work together to end the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that “we are at a critical juncture.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic is now entering its third year and we are at a critical juncture,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference, Reuters reports.
“We must work together to bring the acute phase of this pandemic to an end. We cannot let it continue to drag on, lurching between panic and neglect,” he added, noting that the tools to bring this phase of the pandemic to an end are available.
Last week, the agency said COVID-19 cases across six WHO regions grew by 20 percent, marking a slowdown from previous weeks.
However, the WHO warned that “despite a slowdown of the increase in case incidence at the global level, all regions reported an increase in the incidence of weekly cases with the exception of the African Region, which reported a 27 percent decrease.”
January 26 (GMT)