A study of some of the first breakthrough cases of COVID-19 caused by the highly infectious omicron variant showed that booster shots of the mRNA vaccines did not block this strain, even though the infections involved only mild or moderate symptoms, confirming that they are effective in preventing serious illness and death.
The study involved a group of seven Germans visiting Cape Town, South Africa, who had the first documented breakthrough cases of COVID between late November and early December after receiving three vaccine doses, including at least two of mRNA shots developed. by Pfizer PFE,
with the German partner BioNTech SE BNTX,
or Modern MRNA,
The results were published in the medical journal Lancet.
The group consisted of five white women and two white men between the ages of 25 and 39, four of whom participated in clinical training in hospitals while the others were on vacation. All seven developed respiratory symptoms between November 30 and December 2 and tested positive for the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The study was approved by Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape Town.
“These findings support the need for updated vaccines to provide better protection against symptomatic omicron infection and emphasize that non-pharmaceutical measures should be maintained,” the authors wrote.
Earlier this week, a preliminary study from a hospital in Israel found that a second booster dose did not block omicron, even though it lifted antibodies to a higher level than they had been after a first booster shot.
Also see: Omicron cases appear to have peaked in the northeastern states, but the number of national cases is still at record levels and hospitals have been smashed
In the United States, omicron has pushed new cases and hospitalizations to record levels, according to a New York Times tracker. Cases average close to 800,000 a day, while admissions are over 158,000. That number includes patients in the hospital with other symptoms who have tested positive for the virus.
And while cases appear to have peaked in some of the states first hit hard by omicron – among them New York – the national rate remains at a record high, with deaths delaying cases and hospitalizations exceeding 1,900. This is a 50% increase over the last two weeks and means that the US suffers victims on the 9/11 scale every other day.
See: Opinion: We need a crucial focal point for COVID-19: Double down on treatments for those at high risk instead of boosters and tests for everyone
Other COVID-19 news you should know:
• The National Institutes of Health on Wednesday updated its guidelines for COVID-19 treatment for patients with mild to moderate forms of COVID-19 who are at high risk for disease progression. The new guidelines now include the recently approved antiviral drugs developed by Pfizer and Merck MRK,
with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and not the GlaxoSmithKline GSK,
and Vir Biotechnologies’ VIR,
sotrovimab is the only monoclonal antibody that is thought to be effective against omicron and has added a three-day course by Gilead Sciences Inc.’s GILD,
Veklury as a treatment option. The panel suggests that clinicians first use Pfizer’s Paxlovid, then sotrovimab and then Veklury, and the last option should be molnupiravir, which is the Merck / Ridgeback drug.
• The French government will unveil a timetable for easing COVID restrictions later Thursday, Reuters reported, citing spokesman Gabriel Attal, who warned that the omicron wave has not yet passed. Attal said France’s new vaccine pass rules would help allow the rules to soften as the incidence of infections continues to rise. France reported nearly half a million coronavirus infections on Wednesday, giving a seven-day average of 320,000 cases.
• Austria’s Conservative-led government is introducing a national lottery to encourage holdouts to be vaccinated, Reuters reported separately. The news came hours before parliament was due to pass a bill introducing a national vaccine mandate for adults. Approximately 72% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in Western Europe. Every 10th ticket will offer a gift card worth 500 euros ($ 568).
• Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, an opponent of vaccine mandates, has tested positive for COVID, the Washington Post reported. It is unclear whether Paxton was vaccinated or when he was infected, and his office reportedly did not respond to a request for comment. Paxton has opposed making vaccines mandatory for healthcare professionals in facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds, troops in the Texas National Guard and staff at Head Start programs.
Here’s what the numbers say
The global number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose above 338.3 million, and the death toll is now more than 5.56 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The United States is the world leader with 68.6 million cases and 857,781 killed.
The world set a record of more than 3 million COVID cases a day between January 13 and January 19, AFP reported, as the latest sign of how fast omicron has spread.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine tracker shows that about 209.5 million people living in the United States are fully vaccinated, corresponding to 63.1% of the total population.
About 81.7 million have received a booster, corresponding to 39% of those fully vaccinated.
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