The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently presented data on June 15, indicating that the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against hospitalization has decreased over time.
The data, obtained from a CDC-run hospital network, revealed a concerning decline in vaccine effectiveness, with a negative efficacy rate of 8 percent observed for individuals who received one of the older COVID-19 vaccines.
Even those who received the updated bivalent vaccines experienced a drop in protection, falling to negative 8 percent after 89 days.
Waning Protection and Vaccine Composition:
The data presented by Dr. Ruth Link-Gelles of the CDC illustrated a clear pattern of decreasing effectiveness against hospitalization over time.
Although she did not specifically explain how the effectiveness turned negative, she highlighted the wide confidence intervals for some of the effectiveness estimates.
The bivalent vaccines, developed by Moderna and Pfizer, were introduced in the fall of 2022 with the aim of improving protection against hospitalization and death, as the earlier vaccines demonstrated a decline in sustained shielding.
Concerns and Prior Data:
Dr. Robert Malone, one of the inventors of messenger RNA (mRNA) technology used in the development of COVID-19 vaccines, noted that the negative effectiveness aligns with prior data, including a study from the Cleveland Clinic that found an increased risk of infection with each successive vaccine dose.
Other studies have also suggested that protection against infection diminishes over time, potentially leading to an increased risk of hospitalization.
Possible Impact on Immune System and Critical Illness:
Researchers have hypothesized that repeated vaccination may weaken immune systems, potentially rendering individuals susceptible to life-threatening conditions such as cancer.
As the effectiveness of vaccines against hospitalization declined, officials have increasingly focused on protection against critical illness, such as intensive care unit admission or death.
According to data from the CDC’s VISION network, bivalent vaccines initially provided 58 percent protection against critical illness, which only dropped to 48 percent during the dominance of the XBB strain.
Implications and Future Considerations:
The CDC’s data indicate a pressing need to address the declining effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against hospitalization. While adjustments were made for factors such as age, sex, and ethnicity, the negative estimates persisted.
However, it’s important to note that vaccine policy decisions are not based solely on effectiveness data. The limitations of the data include the presence of high levels of prior infection (natural immunity) and potential differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
Looking ahead, the FDA plans to update the vaccines to target the XBB strain and its sublineages, anticipating a renewed vaccine campaign in late 2023 and early 2024.
With concerns of another COVID-19 wave coinciding with the virus’s further evolution and decreased population immunity, it becomes crucial to continue monitoring vaccine effectiveness and take proactive measures to protect public health.
The recent CDC data reveals a concerning decline in COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization over time.
While individuals who received the bivalent vaccines experienced slightly higher protection, even their efficacy waned after a certain period. The implications of these findings highlight the need for continuous research and development of vaccines to combat evolving virus strains.
As the vaccination landscape evolves, it is crucial to stay informed and adapt public health measures accordingly to ensure the best possible protection against COVID-19.
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