Booster shots are key to protecting against Omicron, new CDC data suggests
Booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines aren’t just preventing infections with the highly contagious Omicron variant — they’re also keeping infected Americans from ending up in the hospital, according to data published on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The extra doses are 90 percent effective against hospitalization with the variant, the agency reported. Booster shots also reduced the likelihood of a visit to an emergency department or urgent care clinic. The extra doses were most effective against infection and death among Americans aged 50 and older, the data showed.
Over all, the new data show that the vaccines were more protective against the Delta variant than against Omicron, which lab studies have found is partially able to sidestep the body’s immune response.
Last week Thursday, the C.D.C. published additional data showing that in December, unvaccinated Americans 50 years and older were about 45 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who were vaccinated and got a third shot.
Yet less than 40 percent of fully vaccinated Americans who are eligible for a booster shot have received one.
Vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization with the Omicron variant fell to just 57 percent in people who had received their second dose more than six months earlier, the authors found. A third shot restored that protection to 90 percent.
It’s unclear whether protection from the boosters might also wane as it did after two shots, noted Natalie Dean, a bio statistician at Emory University.
The C.D.C. now recommends booster shots for everyone 12 years and older, five months after getting two doses of the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna, or two months after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
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