booster vaccine

Vaccine Effectiveness Against Hospitalisation Plummets in Omicron Surge, Data Shows

The most striking point from this week’s UKHSA Vaccine Surveillance report – with data for the four weeks ending January 9th – is the sharp decline in unadjusted vaccine effectiveness (calculated from raw data, so not adjusted for potential confounders such as risk factors and testing behaviour) against hospitalisation (see above). The decline is particularly sharp for under-50s, with 18-29 year-olds dropping to 38% (meaning the hospitalisation rate was 38% lower among the vaccinated (two or three doses) than the unvaccinated). The sharpness of the drops coincides with the age groups with the lowest third-dose coverage (see below), which suggests it may be a waning effect accelerated by Omicron and offset by boosters.

Third doses in England (UKHSA)

Another possible explanation is that it is an artefact of the high number of incidental hospital admissions in recent weeks, with more than half of Covid hospital admissions being treated primarily for something else. Given vaccines offer little to no protection (or worse) against infection, they will offer the same lack of protection against incidental hospital admission as Omicron spreads in hospitals or is found in those admitted for other reasons. The difference by age may arise because infection rates in those under 50 are currently much higher than in those over 50. In truth, it is likely to be a bit of both, but without data specifically on those being treated primarily for Covid it’s difficult to get to the bottom of which is making the biggest difference.

Unadjusted vaccine effectiveness against infection continued to decline in older age groups and in under-18s this week, presumably due to the waning of the third and second doses. It is negative in all over-18s, meaning the infection rate is higher in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated; in the 18-70s it is lower than minus-100%, meaning the vaccinated are more than twice as likely to have an infection. It did however rise slightly in the 18-50s this week, from a very low base. UKHSA continues to claim this extraordinary data is a result of confounders such as different risk factors and testing behaviour between vaccinated and unvaccinated. However, the agency still has not published any data on these confounders (e.g. testing behaviour and co-morbidities by vaccination status), despite being asked repeatedly, nor made any attempt to estimate adjusted vaccine effectiveness based on this data. If you would like to ask it to do this you can email its head Mary Ramsay here (Twitter here).

Vaccine Effectiveness Plummets to as Low as Minus-151% as Omicron Cancels Out Boost From Third Doses

Omicron bites hard in the UKHSA Vaccine Surveillance report this week, as unadjusted vaccine effectiveness against infection (calculated from the raw data) plummets across all age groups in the month ending January 2nd 2022. The revival in some age groups from the third doses has now been almost completely cancelled out, as all age groups above 18 years go negative again. Those in their 40s hit a new low of minus-151% (negative vaccine effectiveness means the vaccinated are more likely to be infected than the unvaccinated; a vaccine effectiveness of minus-100% means the vaccinated are twice as likely to be infected as the unvaccinated). There is a sharp drop for under-18s for the first time as well, with unadjusted vaccine effectiveness more than halving in a fortnight, collapsing from 79% to 38% (there was no report last week due to the Christmas holiday).

To underline the pointlessness of vaccine passports and mandates for preventing spread, I have plotted in the chart below the proportions of infections in the unvaccinated and vaccinated for the month ending January 2nd (in this chart ‘vaccinated’ includes all who have received at least one dose; in the other charts in this post ‘vaccinated’ means at least 14 days after a second dose). It shows that 72% or nearly three quarters of infections in that four-week period were in the vaccinated (65% in the double or triple vaccinated) and only 22% in the unvaccinated. That is certainly not an epidemic of the unvaccinated; almost the opposite, in fact.

Omicron has also had an impact on unadjusted vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation, with sharp declines occurring particularly in the younger age groups with lower booster coverage. The decline in 18-29 year-olds is particularly steep, dropping to just 50%, meaning double vaccination is only halving the risk of hospitalisation (though keep in mind this is unadjusted vaccine effectiveness based on raw data, not taking into account any potential confounders in either direction).

We Can’t Vaccinate the Planet Every Six Months, Says JCVI Chief

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, the head of Britain’s vaccine body, has said fourth jabs should not be offered until there is more evidence as he warned that giving a new dose to people every six months was “not sustainable”. In an interview with the Telegraph the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) also said there was no point in trying to stop all infections, and that “at some point, society has to open up”.

Speaking to mark the first anniversary of the AstraZeneca jab rollout last January, Sir Andrew said: “The worst is absolutely behind us. We just need to get through the winter.”

He wants lockdowns to be consigned to history, adding: “At some point, society has to open up. When we do open, there will be a period with a bump in infections, which is why winter is probably not the best time.

“But that’s a decision for the policy makers, not the scientists. Our approach has to switch, to rely on the vaccines and the boosters. The greatest risk is still the unvaccinated.”

Sir Andrew cautioned against blindly following Israel and Germany, which have given the green light to a second set of boosters to all over-60s.

“The future must be focusing on the vulnerable and making boosters or treatments available to them to protect them,” he said. 

“We know that people have strong antibodies for a few months after their third vaccination, but more data are needed to assess whether, when and how often those who are vulnerable will need additional doses.”

Vaccines can rapidly be adapted to fight new variants, but he said: “We can’t vaccinate the planet every four to six months. It’s not sustainable or affordable. In the future, we need to target the vulnerable.”

Worth reading in full.

UAE Bans Citizens From Leaving Country Without Third Vaccine Dose

The United Arab Emirates has announced a ban on citizens who have not had three doses of a Covid vaccine from travelling abroad. In a notable tightening of the country’s vaccine passport travel regime, medical exemptions will apply but there is no option of a negative test. The BBC has the story.

Officials said the exit ban, which comes into force on January 10th, would not apply to those who are medically exempt from receiving the vaccine.

It is the latest country to announce new curbs amid a rise in infections.

Many countries impose strict restrictions on unvaccinated people before they are allowed in.

This varies from a requirement for a negative Covid test before travel to mandatory quarantine upon arrival.

More than 90% of the population in the UAE has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. About 34% had received the booster jab as of December 24th, according to Our World in Data.

The Government says the aim is to prioritise “health and safety” but it’s not clear how requiring triple vaccination to leave the country will protect the country from importing infections. It suggests the aim may be more to incentivise third dose take-up than actual infection control.

Worth reading in full.

Australian Medical Experts Say Three Booster Jabs Should Be Administered A Year

Analysing data on the effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna booster jabs provided by the U.K Health Security Agency (UKHSA), some Australian medical experts have said that three annual booster jabs will be needed for the foreseeable future. For example, Jaya Dantas, a Professor of International Health, declared that “it appears that there might be a need for regular boosters”. The Guardian has the story.

Australians may have to receive two or even three Covid jabs each year to maintain defences against the virus if early results on the efficacy of booster shots turn out to be a useful guide.

Weekly data published just before Christmas by the U.K.’s Health Security Agency shows the effectiveness of both the Pfizer and Moderna boosters against symptomatic diseases is lower for the Omicron than the Delta variant across all periods after the injection.

The analysis included 147,597 Delta and 68,489 Omicron cases in the U.K. The agency stressed the “results should be interpreted with caution due to the low counts and the possible biases related to the populations with highest exposure to Omicron (including travellers and their close contacts) which cannot fully be accounted for”.

The U.K. data showed both Pfizer and Moderna boosters had 90% effectiveness against symptomatic diseases from the Delta variant up to at least nine weeks.

By contrast, efficacy against the Omicron strain was about 30% lower, and appeared to drop away further after nine weeks.

Israel has already begun administering a second booster dose to follow the original three-dose treatment, and at least one U.S. medical centre is considering recommending staff have a second booster.

Medical experts in Australia said results beyond the 12-week dataset would be needed to get a longer term picture.

Jaya Dantas, a Professor of International Health at Curtin University, said it was still early days for the understanding of the efficacy of the vaccinations but “it appears that there might be a need for regular boosters”.

“You might need boosters, say maybe two a year or three a year,” Dantas said, with elderly people more likely to be in line for a triple annual dose…

Michael Lydeamore, an infectious disease modeller at Monash University, said it was reassuring from the U.K. study that “no matter what your initial first two vaccine doses were – so either AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna – you get basically the same protection” from the Pfizer or Moderna booster.

“That’s really important, because we know the AstraZeneca protection is a bit lower to start with than Pfizer,” Lydeamore said “But both go up to about the same level after a booster, so that’s really good.”

Worth reading in full.

Vaccine Effectiveness Drops to Minus-75% in 18-29 Years-Olds as Omicron Slices Through Vaccine Protection and Booster Effect Starts to Wear Off

The latest Vaccine Surveillance report from the UKHSA shows a sharp drop in unadjusted vaccine effectiveness against infection (calculated from the raw infection rate data) in 18-29 year-olds, down to minus-75% in the month ending December 19th, from minus-10% the previous week.

Unadjusted vaccine effectiveness fell in all age groups this week, particularly sharply in 30-39 year-olds, where it hit minus-98%. In 40-49 year-olds it fell to minus-131%. Negative vaccine effectiveness means the vaccinated are more likely to be infected than the unvaccinated. A vaccine effectiveness of minus-100% means the vaccinated are twice as likely to be infected as the unvaccinated.

With Omicron infections particularly prevalent in the young and the vaccinated, this drop is likely to be the impact of Omicron, combined with a waning of vaccine efficacy. The high relative rates of infection in the vaccinated compared to the unvaccinated undermine any argument for vaccine passports or mandates that depend on the idea that the vaccinated are less likely to be infected or pass on the virus. If anything, it’s the vaccinated who are a higher transmission risk to the unvaccinated rather than vice-versa.

Unadjusted vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation and death continues to hold at a high level on this data, and has even increased in recent weeks in line with what is presumably a booster effect – though a drop in vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation in 18-29 year-olds this week may portend a coming shift.

Boris Johnson Says Getting Boosted Follows the Teachings of Christ

Repeating the same message projected by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Boris Johnson has tried to persuade members of the public to get their booster shots by telling them that doing so upholds the Christian principle of “loving our neighbour”, further saying that’s what “Jesus told us to do. It’s Christmas, do what he said”. The Prime Minister also showered praise on those who received the vaccine in order to protect others. The Guardian has the story.

Boris Johnson has invoked the teaching of Jesus Christ to urge the public to get a Covid booster jab, in a message issued to mark a Christmas he said would be “significantly better” than last year’s.

In a video statement filmed in front of a Christmas tree in Downing Street, the Prime Minister celebrated members of the public who were “getting jabbed not just for themselves, for ourselves, but for friends and family and everyone we meet”.

“That, after all, is the teaching of Jesus Christ, whose birth is at the heart of this enormous festival – that we should love our neighbours as we love ourselves,” he said.

His words echoed the message from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who said earlier this week: “I would say, go and get boosted, get vaccinated. It’s how we love our neighbour. Loving our neighbour is what Jesus told us to do. It’s Christmas, do what he said.”

The Prime Minister said he could not say the pandemic was over, but pointed out that many people were able to celebrate with more family members this year than last.

“If this year you need a bigger turkey and there are more sprouts to peel and more washing up to do, then that is all to the good, because these rituals matter so deeply. And I hope that people will enjoy this Christmas this year all the more keenly because of what we had to miss last year,” he said.

There had been fears the government might impose limits on socialising over the festive period in a bid to slow the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, but ministers decided to wait and monitor the data.

In 2020, some parts of the country, including London, the home counties and the east of England, were placed under tier-four restrictions just days before Christmas that meant a “stay at home” order was in place. Elsewhere, up to three households could gather, but only for a single day.

The NHS has accelerated the pace of booster vaccinations significantly since the arrival of Omicron, and in some parts of the country will continue to deliver jabs even on Christmas Day.

Johnson was baptised a Catholic but has rarely discussed his own religion. He married his wife, Carrie, at the Catholic Westminster Cathedral earlier this year. When ITV’s Robert Peston asked if he was a practising Catholic, Johnson replied: “I don’t discuss these deep issues.”

Worth reading in full.

Australia’s Chief Pharmacist Says The Public “Need To Accept” Booster Jabs And Mask Wearing For Years To Come

Trent Twomey, the National President of the Pharmacy Guild in Australia, has declared that Government policy and advice put in place to tackle Covid, such as mask wearing and booster jab rollouts, will happen for many more years to come. He also said that, in order to remain fully vaccinated, members of the public will have to receive a bi-annual top-up dose, and that it’s “something we just need to accept”. The Mail Australia has the story.

Trent Twomey, National President of the Pharmacy Guild, says if modelling shows that its best for people to get a Covid jab “every six months”, then Australians should do so.  

He dismissed concerns over lingering vaccine hesitancy and wearing masks, saying Australians “just need to accept” necessary measures because “it’s pretty simple”. 

Twomey told Sky News he believes most Australians “want to do the right thing” but that they were anxious to know what normal life in the pandemic era looks like.

He predicted the need to wear a mask could remain “for a long time”, but that it’s “not that inconvenient”. 

“I think booster shots, just like your annual influenza shot [are] something we just need to accept, its not going to be with us for many weeks and months, it’s going to be with us for many years.”

He said in order to remain fully vaccinated people will have to get “a periodic inoculation”.

He said boosters could be needed once or twice a year, depending on what conclusions experts draw from “the data”.

“But you know what, it’s just something we’re gonna have to do. [If] we need one every six months, then you know what Australia, let’s get one every six months.”

In response to a question about Anthony Albanese asking for boosters to be made available to the public four months after their second dose instead of five months, Twomey said we are close to that timeframe already. 

He said people can get a booster two weeks ahead of the five-month mark, at four and a half months.

He said the decision to bring forward boosters further should be up to “experts… not politicians”.

Worth reading in full

Vaccine Effectiveness Drops Below Zero in 18-29 Year-Olds for First Time – But Boosters Appear to be Helping

The latest UKHSA Vaccine Surveillance report, containing data for the month ending December 12th, brings mixed news on the vaccines. First the bad news. Unadjusted vaccine effectiveness based on the raw reported infection rates is still negative for all aged between 18 and 70 (see above). In fact, it’s gone negative for the first time in 18-29 year-olds, down to minus-10.1%, after a sharp drop in the last week. A negative vaccine effectiveness means the infection rate per 100,000 people is higher in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated. This means that vaccine passports and vaccine mandates will be ineffective at preventing transmission, and indeed it implies that the vaccinated are actually a higher transmission risk than the unvaccinated. Far from protecting the vaccinated from the unvaccinated, then, as much current policy seems intended to do, perhaps the unvaccinated should be wary of the company of the vaccinated. For those in their 40s in particular, unadjusted vaccine effectiveness is minus-119%, meaning the vaccinated are more than twice as likely to be carrying the virus as the unvaccinated.

The goods news, however, is that the boosters appear to be having a significant impact. Unadjusted vaccine effectiveness has been rising in the older age groups for some weeks, and is now solidly positive in the over-70s, albeit at a not-very-impressive 39.5% in 70-79 year-olds and 53.3% in the over-80s. That this rise is likely due to the third doses is indicated by the fact it has occurred in staggered fashion in each age group, apparently in line with when boosters were rolled out.

What appears to be the case to the casual eye has been put more rigorously to the test by Dr. Richard J. Booth, a retired civil servant with a Ph.D. in mathematical statistics. In a new piece published by the Daily Sceptic today, Dr. Booth undertakes statistical analysis to compare the booster rollout rates in each age group with the changes in the relative reported infection rates to see if there is any correlation over time. He explains:

It occurred to me that since the third doses have been deployed at different rates in the different age groups, it might be possible to observe, and analyse, a ripple of decreasing infection rates from older to younger people over the last few weeks. So I developed a statistical model for infection rates, including a value dependent on the week (because the epidemic progresses at a rather unpredictable rate from week to week), and a week-dependent value proportional to the number of people who two or more weeks earlier had had the third dose compared with the number having had at least the first dose. I divided out the infection rate data by its value in the first week, to put the different age ranges on the same footing.

He concludes that what appeared to be the case is validated by his model, and the booster rollout correlates well with the changes in relative infection rates.

I conclude that though three doses of vaccines may have been effective from the outset, statistical support for that proposition via these sources did not become apparent until week 44’s data was published, when nearly half of over 80’s had had boosters two or more weeks earlier, but has been sustained since then. Of course, ‘statistical support’ is not a cast-iron proof, as correlation is not causation and there might be ‘unknown unknowns’ at work. Nevertheless it is highly suggestive that the prior statistical work on Covid vaccines is vindicated here.

While not all readers will follow every detail in Dr. Booth’s thorough and technical article, it is well worth checking out.

Big Pharma Will Make Omicron-Specific Booster Shots Even Though They’re Not Needed, Says Anthony Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House Chief Medical Adviser, has spoken of his confidence that existing vaccines will be able to effectively target the Omicron variant, and that a new booster jab created to specifically fight this new strain is not needed. However, Fauci has said that pharmaceutical companies will produce vaccines that are variant-specific regardless. RT has the story.

“I’m not so sure that we’re going to have to get a variant-specific boost vaccine to get an adequate protection from Omicron,” Fauci told the health news website STAT on Friday. “Because if you look at protection against variants, it appears to relate to the level of immunity and the breadth of the immunity that any given vaccine can instil on you.”

While some experts have expressed concerns that the Omicron variant of the Covid is better able to evade the current crop of vaccines, Fauci has continued to place his faith in these shots. So too has Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, though he has claimed that a fourth dose may be needed to combat the new strain.

“With Omicron we need to wait and see because we have very little information. We may need [the fourth dose] faster,” he told CNBC this week.

While Fauci said that an Omicron-specific booster likely won’t be needed, he did add that drug companies like Pfizer “are going to be making variant-specific boosters.”

Worth reading in full.