If you were waiting for more information to receive your COVID-19 booster shot, the latest research in Israel suggests how a third dose can make a big difference, especially for young people. In the recent study, people aged 16 to 49 were 13 times less likely to test positive for COVID-19 after a Pfizer-BioNTech booster, even as coronavirus cases in the country increased. The strongest protection started two weeks after the third dose and continued until the study ended a few weeks later.
What’s interesting about this study is that it compared people who were boosted to people who were fully vaccinated – and the improvements in immunity were still significant. The researchers used data from the Israeli Ministry of Health from July 30 to October 10, 2021, ultimately including more than 4.5 million people over the age of 16 who received the Pfizer vaccine at least 5 months previously. Then, they compared the rates of confirmed infection, serious illness, and death between vaccinated people who received a booster dose and vaccinated people who did not.
The results, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, were also promising for other age groups. Israelis 50 and older who received their booster were about 10 times less likely to test positive for COVID-19 during the study period. And they reduced the cases of serious illness and death – people 60 and over, in particular, were 12 times less likely to become seriously ill compared to those vaccinated who had not received the third vaccine and around 15 times less likely to die.
Of course, the omicron variant was not a factor at the time the research was conducted. But there are reasons to be hopeful anyway. Pfizer and BioNTech announced Wednesday that lab tests suggest a booster offers protection against the omicron variant. This was based on a study that took blood samples from people who had received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine and also looked at samples from people who received a booster dose a month before.
Fully vaccinated people saw a 25-fold reduction in neutralizing antibodies to omicron compared to the original coronavirus strain, although the company pointed out that the number of T cells induced by the vaccine leads them to believe that ‘full vaccination will always prevent serious illness and death.
But the people who received a booster dose had 25 times the antibodies and also increased the number of specific T cells that are believed to work against the omicron variant as well. « Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against serious disease caused by the omicron strain, it is clear from this preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine, » said Albert Bourla, president- CEO of Pfizer. in a press release.
However, it’s worth noting that the study was small – they only looked at 39 samples – and the results are preliminary. We’ll learn more about the actual effectiveness of omicron variant vaccines and boosters over time.
The other two U.S. vaccine makers, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, have yet to release information on the effectiveness of their omicron vaccines. However, research published in October by the National Institutes of Health found that mRNA boosters from Pfizer and Moderna provided the most robust immune response, per NPR– significantly stronger than people who received the Johnson & Johnson booster, regardless of their first vaccine.
And yes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave their approval mix and match your booster dose. The most important thing is to get the vaccine and get a boost if you are at least six months away from your second dose of Pfizer / Moderna or two months away from Johnson & Johnson. It is one of the best things we can do to stay healthy.