As Covid-19 cases increase across the United States, health authorities are warning more and more people who will be hospitalized or go to the emergency room. This concern about impaired immunity against severe Covid infection comes when the FDA is expected to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech booster vaccine for all adults 18 years of age and older.
“We are now beginning to see an increase in hospitalizations among people who have been vaccinated but have not been boosted,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, said in an interview with NBC on Tuesday. News. “It’s a significant share, but by no means a majority.”
On Wednesday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported a decline in the effectiveness of vaccines among the elderly and residents of long-term care facilities, many of whom were first vaccinated last winter. .
“While the highest risk is for unvaccinated people, emergency visits are on the rise among adults aged 65 and over, which is now again higher than in younger age groups,” Walensky said at a White House Covid news conference Wednesday. .
Walensky also referred to new data from the agency’s National Healthcare Safety Network on long-term care services comparing people vaccinated with Covid with two doses and those who received an extra dose.
“The morbidity rate is significantly lower for those who have received the booster vaccine, indicating that our booster vaccines are working,” he said.
Both Fauci and Walensky stressed that the majority of hospitalizations and deaths still occur among unvaccinated people in the United States.
“Studies show that unvaccinated people are still more likely to get infected, more likely to be hospitalized, and more likely to have serious Covid-19 complications,” Walensky said at the news conference.
According to the CDC, the current number of seven-day hospitalizations is about 5,300 per day, and in the United States, about 1,000 people die from Covid every day.
Still, it is not clear how many breakthroughs there are in hospital care. Although the CDC has been monitoring the hospitalization of people who have been fully vaccinated, the data will not be available on the agency’s website until 28 August. According to the latest CDC, an unvaccinated person is 11 times more likely to die from Covid than a vaccinated person. one.
The CDC did not respond to the request for new numbers.
According to the CDC, at least 31 million people have received an extra dose of either Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Should younger adults get a booster dose?
Fauci refers to data from Israel that show a significant improvement in protection from serious illnesses and hospitalizations for those who receive boost compared to those who do not. In a study published in October, Israeli researchers found that people over the age of 60 who received the booster had a 20-fold reduction in serious illness.
Another October study by Israeli researchers and the faculty of Harvard Medical School found that booster doses were 92 percent effective in preventing serious illnesses compared with two doses of conventional treatment at least five months earlier.
As vaccination rates rise in the U.S., there are expected to be more people vaccinated who are hospitalized because of Covid, simply because vaccines do not provide 100 percent protection against serious illnesses, Fauci said.
“That’s where we get back to the importance of efficiency,” Fauci said. “It dramatically reduces the likelihood that if you get infected with a breakthrough infection, you’ll end up in the hospital.”
According to Fauc, the United States is just beginning to see “hints” of declining protection against serious illnesses – but throughout the pandemic, Israel has been about six weeks ahead of Covid, which is one reason federal health officials have relied on the country’s data.
“If you look closely at the data from Israel, it is very clear that the differences in immunosuppression are much deeper in the elderly, but they go across,” Fauci said, noting that people over the age of 40 in particular showed a clear improvement in protection against serious diseases.
Given the lack of national data on breakthrough diseases in younger adults in the United States, it is unclear how many serious diseases have occurred and whether booster vaccinations would be beneficial.
“I wouldn’t be surprised that sooner or later you’ll see the data show that it’s also very important [younger] people, when they have booster vaccines available, get a booster vaccine, ”Fauci said.
Dr. Bob Wachter, president of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, would like booster vaccines extended to all adults over the age of 18.
“It made sense to start intensifying in people who had the highest risk of poor performance or the highest risk of exposure,” Wachter said. “However, we have gone through that stage and there is enough vaccine.”
One of the biggest issues with the booster dose was the potential risk of myocarditis, or myocarditis, associated with mRNA vaccines, especially in young men. Israeli health authorities report that, according to Fauc, no significant signs of myocarditis have yet emerged.
Experts say that in addition to the booster vaccine, giving the first doses to unvaccinated is very important.
Dr. Paul Sax, a medical professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, believes people’s first dose and boosting of others can happen at exactly the same time.
“They are separate processes and don’t seem to contradict each other,” Sax said. “We can definitely do both, because I think most vaccinated people would agree to a booster dose if it meant they were better protected.”
Sax is also strongly in favor of extending the dose of booster doses to all adults over 18 years of age.
“It’s inevitable and I think the right step,” he said. “Looks like two doses just aren’t enough.”