The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to protect against multiple variants of the coronavirus, including delta, according to a Yale University study.
The research, published this week in the journal Nature, also found that people who were vaccinated after having COVID-19 had stronger immunity to variants than those who were vaccinated but had not had the disease.
The study was conducted during an increase in so-called breakthrough infections, mostly caused by the delta variant, in vaccinated people, according to a release.
“Vaccines induce high levels of antibodies against delta and most variants,” said Akiko Iwasaki, professor of immunobiology in the Yale School of Medicine and an author of the paper, in the release. “And two shots are better than one.”
The research also found that booster shots of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, both mRNA vaccines, are effective against the coronavirus.
Israel has defeated the Delta variant of the coronavirus and can expect six to eight months of COVID quiet, according to a leading virologist.
Dr. Rivka Abulafia-Lapid told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that the fourth wave is coming to an end, that Delta is highly unlikely to generate another wave, and that the strong spread of a new variant is improbable.
This is mostly due to the allocation of booster shots across age groups in Israel, which, given the functioning of the immune system, are likely to deliver longer-lasting protection than the initial two shots, she said.
“My estimate is that once we have three vaccines, protection will last for a year,” said Abulafia-Lapid, a senior doctor at Hadassah Medical Center and part of the Hebrew University’s faculty. “There should be good memory in the body for around a year that can fight off COVID infection in many cases.”
She was slightly more conservative in predicting how long the boosters will protect the broader public — including those who have not had a booster shot — and said that she expects them to keep existing variants under control and prevent the wide spread of other variants for around six to eight months.
Mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines for booster doses appears safe and as effective—if not more effective—than sticking with the same vaccine for a booster dose. That’s according to preliminary data posted online Wednesday from a clinical trial run by the National Institutes of Health.
The trial bolsters what some have long hoped: that mixing and matching vaccines could provide stronger, broader protection against the pandemic virus and all its variants.
The trial was not large enough to definitively indicate which combination of vaccines offers the best protection. And the early results, available on a preprint server, have not yet been peer-reviewed. But the preliminary trial findings do hint that Moderna’s mRNA vaccine may offer the strongest protection all around—backing up similar findings from earlier vaccine-effectiveness studies. The data also suggests that people who received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine may want to get a boost with one of the two mRNA vaccines, either Moderna’s or Pfizer/BioNTech’s.
But most clearly, the study found that mix-and-match boosting increases protection and produces only similar side effects as boosting with the same vaccine. Or, in the authors’ words: “These data suggest that if a vaccine is approved or authorized as a booster, an immune response will be generated regardless of the primary Covid-19 vaccination regimen.”
Fears that were rife in Spain a month ago ahead of the return to school of 5.2 million students under the age of 12 have now made way for optimism. A possible rise in infections among the only group of the population that has not been vaccinated against Covid-19 has not come to pass, and experts are starting to consider that the levels of protection reached – nearly 80% of the Spanish population has been fully inoculated – have brought Spain to a situation that is nearing something resembling herd immunity. While the total eradication of the virus is not expected, the experts consider that the moment when students aged over six in elementary schools will no longer have to wear face masks is not far away.
“We are in the best of the scenarios that we could have expected a month ago,” explains Quique Bassat, an epidemiologist and researcher at the ISGlobal institute in Barcelona. “Community transmission has fallen a lot and very fast, and this, together with the protection measures that have been maintained in schools, has been sufficient even with a variant that’s as contagious as delta,” he explains, in reference to the strain that first was detected in India and has now become predominant.
Jesús Rodríguez Baño, the head of infectious diseases at the Virgen de la Macarena Hospital in Seville, shares this view. “If we have to look for an explanation for why the epidemiological situation is improving in a sustained manner, and is also doing so among those who are unvaccinated, given that the delta variant is circulating and we are gradually returning to normal, the only plausible one is that something similar to that concept of herd immunity is already working,” he says.
The daily report from the Spanish Health Ministry provides the data that support these hopes, only tempered by the “necessary precautions that must be maintained when faced with a virus about which we still don’t know things like how long immunity lasts,” as Rodríguez Baño explains. The 14-day cumulative incidence was, in Thursday’s ministry report, at 40.5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, a third of that registered a month ago. This trend has also been seen among the under-12s, for whom the incidence has fallen from 150 to 60 this month. The fall has been even more abrupt – from 154 cases to barely 30 – among the 12-19 age group, 80% of whom have already been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
If these data are compared to a year ago, when the second wave began to take shape, the differences are stark. The incidence then was in excess of 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, there were 11,300 Covid-19 patients in hospital and 1,600 ICU patients. In Catalonia, for example, a year ago there were 1,500 classes confined – now there are just 100.
Throughout August, the risk of dying from Covid-19 was 11 times higher for unvaccinated adults than for fully vaccinated adults in the United States, according to new data published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Unvaccinated adults faced a six times higher risk of testing positive for Covid-19 throughout the month, and In the last week of August, the risk of being hospitalized was nearly 19 times higher for unvaccinated adults than fully vaccinated adults.
Some states and local jurisdictions have recently started publishing Covid-19 case, death and hospitalization rates by vaccination status on their own dashboards, and the CDC has been working with health departments to link case surveillance data with immunization information systems for their own analysis.
While the CDC analysis is not fully comprehensive, the data published late Thursday is the first federal look at Covid-19 risks by vaccination status made publicly available with plans for regular updates.
The White House said Friday it would allow international travelers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 into the U.S. starting Nov. 8, lifting a ban on visitors from the European Union, UK and other countries.
The White House last month said it planned to lift the travel restrictions, which barred most non-U.S. citizens who had recently been in Europe, Brazil, South Africa and elsewhere, in early November. The rules were first set Trump administration early in the pandemic to slow the spread of Covid-19, and extended by the new Biden administration in the winter. The Biden administration had said visitors would have to be fully vaccinated against Covid to enter.
Inbound travelers, including U.S. citizens, still need proof of a negative Covid test to travel to the United States from abroad.
Northwestern Medicine scientists have shown for the first time that coronavirus vaccines and prior coronavirus infections can provide broad immunity against other, similar coronaviruses. The findings build a rationale for universal coronavirus vaccines that could prove useful in the face of future epidemics.
“Until our study, what hasn’t been clear is if you get exposed to one coronavirus, could you have cross-protection across other coronaviruses? And we showed that is the case,” said lead author Pablo Penaloza-MacMaster, assistant professor of microbiology-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The findings were recently published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Will there ever be one universal coronavirus vaccine?
Given how different each coronavirus family is, that answer is “likely no,” said the study authors. But there may be a path forward for developing a vaccine for each coronavirus family (Sarbecovirus, Embecovirus and Merbecovirus), they said.
“Our study helps us re-evaluate the concept of a universal coronavirus vaccine,” Penaloza-MacMaster said. “It’s likely there isn’t one, but we might end up with a generic vaccine for each of the main families of coronaviruses, for example a universal Sarbecovirus vaccine for SARS-CoV-1, SARS-CoV-2 and other SARS-related coronaviruses; or a universal Embecovirus for HCoV-OC43 and HKU1 that cause common colds.”