Wednesday, March 08, 2023

UConn Health Worker Study: mRNA Vaccine Effectiveness Wanes—Hybrid Immunity Superior

Yet more evidence surfaces that so-called hybrid immunity trumped vaccine-induced immunity, according to recent study findings published in the journal Vaccines. Led by UConn Health investigators, the recent study reveals that healthcare workers who were vaccinated yet went on to experience symptomatic COVID-19 gained more robust immunity than those who didn’t experience a breakthrough symptomatic infection. The study just adds to the evidence that current mRNA COVID-19 vaccine durability isn’t sufficient for a robust, sustainable, long-term vaccine product.

While healthcare workers such as nurses, doctors, and other staff experienced high rates of SARS-CoV-2 exposure, especially early on during the pandemic, University of Connecticut’s UConn Today reports that this cohort was an ideal group to study the effects of the COVID-19 vaccines that were available by spring 2021.

As reported by Kim Krieger at the university’s communications department, the UConn study team recruited 296 of their colleagues to participate in a vaccine study that began that spring, including 46 who had already had COVID.

Study subjects were inoculated with either the Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT162b2) or the Moderna (mRNA-1273) mRNA vaccines, whichever was available at the time. (Originally the study included healthcare workers vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson’s product, but not enough participants ended up receiving that vaccine to make the results statistically significant.)

The UConn health workers in the study had their blood tested for neutralizing antibodies at two months post-vaccination, then at five months, and again at nine months.

Summary of the Effects

UConn reports on the science behind the neutralizing antibodies--they specifically attack the parts of the virus important for infection. Other antibodies might react to parts of the virus but be ineffective at stopping it from infecting other cells. Not all antibody tests look specifically for neutralizing antibodies, and that specificity is one of this study’s strengths, says UConn School of Medicine chief of infectious diseases Kevin Dieckhaus, one of the authors.

Waning Effectiveness of mRNA Vaccines

As reported by Dieckhaus and colleagues, the data becomes clear--the mRNA vaccines elicit a strong neutralizing antibody response in the first few months from people who have never been infected with COVID before. But the level of neutralizing antibodies drops off steeply by nine months.

Hybrid Coverage Stronger

In people who have already been infected with COVID, the response is stronger: the neutralizing antibody response is higher initially and doesn’t drop off as steeply over time. And in both groups, getting a fever, aches, or a sore arm after vaccination predicted a stronger, longer lasting neutralizing antibody response.

The data confirms what earlier studies had reported. In middle aged people, the antibody response from the vaccines is relatively strong but short lived.

Principal Investigator POV

Dieckhaus went on the record regarding their findings: “Prior infection with COVID meant you were more likely to have a sustained immune response. It definitely sets your immune system to respond in a more vigorous way to the vaccination.”

What’s Next?

The researchers are continuing the study and currently tracking antibody levels in participants who received boosters, as well as whether they have contracted COVID since being vaccinated. They hope to help answer other questions, such as whether the antibody response to boosters behaves similarly over time to the initial shots, and why some people get infected with COVID repeatedly while others don’t.


CDC’s Risk-Benefit Assessment for New COVID-19 Vaccines Flawed: Experts

A new U.S. government comparison of COVID-19 vaccine risks and benefits exaggerated benefits and downplayed risks, experts say.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently provided a risk-benefit assessment for the updated bivalent vaccines. One assessment was for adolescents aged 12 to 17.

The CDC estimated that a million doses in the age group, over a period of six months, would prevent up to 136 hospitalizations and zero or one death. But it relied on effectiveness estimates from an outdated, non-peer-reviewed CDC study that analyzed only data for adults. Hospitalization rates included hospitalizations for which COVID-19 was an incidental reason, not a primary reason, for admission.

“When we look at both the potential benefits and harms for adolescents together, using the hospitalization ranges from the sensitivity analyses, we see that per million doses we would expect to prevent between 31 and 136 hospitalizations, nine to 40 ICU admissions, and one death,” Megan Wallace, a CDC official, said while presenting the assessment.

A second version, which took into account incidental hospitalizations, lowered the estimate of hospitalizations prevented to between 17 and 75.

Both versions noted that, in a single CDC-run surveillance system, there have been zero myocarditis cases among young people who received a bivalent booster. But fewer than 100,000 doses have been given to adolescents in the system, and as many as 62 cases per million doses could occur in young males, a footnote reads.

Myocarditis, or heart inflammation, is one of the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines, and it’s most prevalent in young males.

Critics took issue with the presentation.

“It’s definitely flawed,” Allison Krug, an epidemiologist, told The Epoch Times.

Among the issues: using hospitalization rates from COVID-NET, which don’t include rates for children, and not including outpatient medical encounters, as some researchers have done, when searching for myocarditis cases.

“The risk-benefit analysis is a marketing strategy to maximize uptake of the vaccine,” Krug said. “It is not an honest effort to estimate risks and benefits because it ignores the most durable protection on the ‘market’—immunity from prior infection—which is near universal now.”

She has performed risk-benefit analyses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for adolescent boys and for booster mandates at colleges.

Dr. Tracy Hoeg, another epidemiologist, described the assessment as “top level incompetence” as the CDC, she said, tried “to justify giving bivalent boosters to children.” She pointed out that the CDC study used to estimate hospitalizations prevented didn’t include adjustments for factors such as the likelihood of being tested.

The CDC and Wallace didn’t respond to requests for comment.

No Clinical Data

U.S. authorities have had to rely on observational data for the bivalent boosters from Pfizer and Moderna, which were authorized and recommended in fall 2022, because there are still no clinical effectiveness data available six months later. Mice data were used to justify authorizing the vaccines.

Pfizer and Moderna haven’t responded to requests for comment about when the data from their trials will be available.

Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, announced on March 1 that it had asked U.S. regulators to authorize a bivalent booster for children younger than 5 years old based on data from its trials, claiming that the data show that the bivalent elicited a higher level of neutralizing antibodies and that the safety profile “remained similar to that of the original vaccine.”

Multiple members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, to whom the CDC presented the risk-benefit assessment, noted the lack of trial data after they were asked whether authorities should transition to an annual booster moving forward.

“I would like to see a study saying, ‘OK, you’ve just got one bivalent vaccine. What is the benefit? And how long does that last?’ I think that would enhance the confidence in making a change rather than inferring the data,” Dr. Camille Kotton, one of the advisers, said.

Both Kotton and Dr. Matthew Daley said they wanted trials examining the vaccines, although Daley floated one comparing coadministration of influenza and COVID-19 vaccines with administering each of the vaccines separately.

“We would learn a lot about immunogenicity and safety,” Daley said. “That might be valuable for this conversation.”

Inflated Death Toll

Officials have repeatedly pointed to how some children have died from COVID-19 as justification for recommending that children get vaccinated, despite the dearth of effectiveness data for even the original shots in the population.

The CDC has used inflated children’s death data before and has refused requests to make a correction.

Dr. Sara Oliver, a CDC official, presented death data on a slide during the recent meeting. The claim was that 1,489 COVID-19 deaths had occurred in children aged 6 months to 17 years, but the total included children aged 0 to 5 months.

Oliver didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Kelley Krohnert, a Georgia mother who has repeatedly fact-checked false CDC claims, noted that the slide also included deaths of which COVID-19 was a contributing cause, not the underlying cause.

“Yet another example of why I argue CDC acts more as a sales/marketing agency than a health agency,” she wrote on Twitter.

New Myocarditis Study

The presentations happened after researchers in Canada reported a higher incidence of myocarditis or pericarditis, a related condition, after Pfizer or Moderna vaccination, particularly after the second dose of a primary series.

Analyzing health records from Quebec, Canada, the researchers found that there was a 15 times higher incidence than expected within seven days of a second dose among males aged 16 and 17 and a 7.6 times higher incidence among males aged 12 to 15.

Of 77 incidents, 63 occurred among males, and 51 occurred after dose two. All but three of the adolescents were assessed in the emergency department, and 34 were hospitalized.

Myocarditis can lead to long-term problems, including heart failure and death, other research has shown.




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