It’s more important than ever to get the COVID-19 Vax – Community News
Covid-19

It’s more important than ever to get the COVID-19 Vax

  • With the rise of the Omicron variant, scientists say it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and then get a booster shot.
  • Higher vaccination rates also reduce the chances for the novel coronavirus to spread and evolve into new, potentially worrying variants.
  • The Omicron variant has many more mutations than other forms of the coronavirus, but it is unclear whether it is more virulent or contagious than previous variants.

The emergence of the Omicron variant reminds us how unpredictable and resilient the novel coronavirus can be.

Variants such as Omicron usually crop up in areas where the virus is highly circulating, especially in areas with low vaccination coverage.

Vaccination not only protects against serious consequences such as hospitalization and death, even with variants, but as more people are vaccinated, there is less chance of the coronavirus spreading and evolving into potentially threatening variants.

While it’s still unclear whether Omicron is in any way more transmissible or virulent, scientists agree that vaccination is the best way to stay protected against any virus variant.

“Now is the time to remind anyone who has not been vaccinated to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu, an infectious disease specialist at Yale Medicine and a key investor in the clinical trials of Pfizer vaccines at Yale School of Medicine.

Early reports from South Africa have shown that infections occur in people who have previously had COVID-19, Ogbuagu said.

Natural infection provides robust immunity, but proof has previously shown that vaccinated people generally have a stronger protection against infection than people who have immunity against a previous infection.

“We do know that the vaccines provide much more durable protection against the virus,” Ogbuagu said.

In addition, as vaccination coverage increases, the virus has fewer chances of spreading and mutating into new variants.

“Whether because of the Delta variant or future variants, vaccines remain the most effective preventive strategy we have,” said Dr. Jorge Salinas, a hospital epidemiologist and an assistant professor of infectious disease medicine at Stanford.

Salinas thinks the effectiveness against symptomatic infection is diminishing somewhat, but he suspects that current COVID-19 vaccines will continue to provide strong protection against serious illness and death, even when tested against Omicron.

“I think the question here may not be whether it evades the immune response. I think the question could be, to what extent?” said Ogbugu.

We need much more evidence to determine whether the vaccines will take a minor hit and whether Omicron could have a significant impact on the effectiveness of monoclonal antibody treatments.

Scientists are also monitoring the severity of reinfections and breakthrough infections.

“Even if it evades the immune response, but clinically it’s a mild form of disease, then there should be a little less of a concern because some of those worse clinical outcomes — like hospitalization and death — may not occur,” Ogbuagu said.

According to Ogbuagu, these tests, which are being conducted in a lab, are already underway. In a few weeks we should have a clearer picture of how the vaccines hold up against Omicron.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have their booster guidance on Nov. 29, reinforcing recommendations for all vaccinated adults to receive a booster shot at least 6 months after their second dose of messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine or 2 months after the Johnson & Johnson injection of one dose.

With the Delta variant, we learned that immunity to vaccination declines over time, but that a booster dose — which was designed to target the original variant — quickly restores protection against variants such as Beta and Delta.

“We found better immune responses against those boosted variants, even if it didn’t specifically target those variants,” Ogbuagu said.

Ogbuagu suspects the same could be true for Omicron.

That said, the new variant does have a unique cluster of mutations, so testing will need to be done to determine if that’s the case.

The mRNA vaccines – Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – are easy to adapt. Vaccine manufacturers are already evaluating Omicron-specific vaccines.

As the coronavirus evolves and new variants emerge, we will likely need updated shots at some point, Salinas said.

Animal and laboratory research can quickly show whether the variant-specific shots can neutralize the variant.

However, clinical studies in humans are more complicated and take several months to complete.

Ogbuagu said we’ll get plenty of clues about the need for custom shots in the coming weeks as researchers study the outbreaks in South Africa and other areas where Omicron circulates.

He would like to see what percentage of cases are in people who have been fully vaccinated, how far their infection was from vaccination, and what kind of disease severity they experienced.

“I think it’s always the data in people that we need to give the most importance to — and that’s going to take time,” Ogbuagu said.

Meanwhile, vaccination remains our best line of defense against infection.

With the potential threat of the Omicron variant, scientists are strengthening their recommendations for vaccination and booster shots.

The best way to prevent serious illness and death, even with variants, is to get vaccinated.

Higher vaccination rates also reduce the chances for the novel coronavirus to spread and evolve into new, potentially worrying variants.