COVID-19 Weekly Newsletter: Variant Reduces Vaccine Efficacy but There Is Disagreement on Need for Boosters

Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP

Vaccine Manufacturer and Government Agencies Disagree on Need for Booster Shots

A manufacturer of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine stated they are observing decreased immunity from its vaccine and issued a statement saying they plan to seek authorization from U.S. and European regulators for a booster dose of their vaccine. This comes as vaccines are proving less effective in preventing COVID-19 infection against the Delta variant. However, the vaccines are still proving very effective in preventing serious disease, which has led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to conclude a booster is not needed at this time. 

Reduced Vaccine Effectiveness Attributed to Delta Variant

Data continues to come in regarding the efficacy of the current vaccines against the Delta variant as infections attributed to this strain continue to rise worldwide. Initially, the most popular vaccines were estimated to be 90% effective in preventing symptomatic infection, but estimates now are closer to 60%. The good news is these vaccines are still highly effective (greater than 90%) in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death. The protection afforded to vaccinated individuals against severe illness illustrates the importance of vaccination.

Delta Variant Now Dominant Strain in U.S. 

The Delta variant of COVID-19 is a more contagious form of the virus first identified in India. Infections attributed to the Delta variant have continued to rise worldwide, with studies showing that children and adults under 50 were 2.5 times more likely to be infected with Delta. In the U.S., Delta has been found in all 50 states and is now the dominant strain in the U.S., accounting for 51% of new COVID cases in the U.S. Experts have attributed surges in new COVID cases to Delta, especially where vaccinations lag, and are stressing the importance of vaccination.

Completing Vaccinations Remains Urgent Priority

Based on a survey of public perception regarding vaccinations and post-vaccination behavior, a group of researchers stresses the need for medical professionals to step up educational efforts to encourage the completion of the two-dose vaccination course as well as respecting other transmission prevention measures such as masking and crowd avoidance. Other researchers explain that in order to convince the public, not only medical advice but also storytelling and outreach by community leaders and other informal authority figures are critically important. Vaccinating as many people as possible remains key to stopping the chains of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, mutation and emergence (or spread) of variants.

Brain Fog in COVID-19 Patients Has Multiple Causes

Some of the COVID-19 symptoms are neurological in nature, sometimes described as “brain fog.” A series of studies indicates that the brains of COVID-19 patients can be harmed in more than one way. For example, the virus has been shown to infect a type of brain cell called astrocytes. Even without the virus physically present, some brain cells seem to malfunction in COVID-19 patients. Microscopic blood clots in the vessels supplying the brain could also be a contributing reason. Finally, an overreaction of a person’s own immune system can lead to inflammation of brain tissues.   

Effect of SARS-CoV-2 Containment Measures on Non-COVID Respiratory Infections

A recently published study examined the impact of masking and lockdowns on the respiratory illnesses caused by viruses other than SARS-CoV-2. By comparing the incidence of viral respiratory infections in 2019 with that in 2020, researchers found that universal masking wiped out influenza cases, but had less effect on the diseases caused by so-called non-enveloped viruses such as enterovirus, rhinovirus or adenovirus. Non-enveloped viruses are generally more stable and thus more transmissible through surface contact. 

A Deep Dive Into the Evolution of SARS-CoV-2

As you pack your bags for summer travel and plan out your reading and listening materials for the journey, consider downloading and bringing along a 90-minute discussion by two renowned virologists as they explain some recent scientific publications related to COVID-19: about the earliest evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infections and genetic sequences from early samples, and about how to avoid (or at least be prepared for) the emergence of SARS-CoV-3, -4, etc. This conversation can be viewed on YouTube or downloaded here.

Humanity’s Debt of Gratitude to an Animal More Ancient Than Dinosaurs

The summer 2021 issue of a university magazine features an in-depth story about horseshoe crabs, which provide a critical — and so far irreplaceable — ingredient for testing SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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