Officially, adults are eligible for a booster two months after the J&J vaccine and six months after your second dose of Pfizer or Moderna. But doctors and scientists are shifting their recommendation a bit about the timing of the booster after the mRNA vaccines. Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) discussed how in the setting of a new variant — and wanting a higher degree of protection for the holidays – he thinks that clinical judgment could involve boosting a bit earlier but cautioned against speeding up the booster too much.
Amid surging COVID-19 infections, Massachusetts hospitals are seeing fewer severely ill COVID patients, and those who do need intensive care are generally recovering more quickly. Richard Schwartzstein, MD (Critical Care Medicine, Pulmonary Disease, BIDMC) said the reports are encouraging but that “no one should be blasé” about it as there are patients – a vast majority unvaccinated – getting as sick or dying, despite these advanced therapies. A snapshot of COVID-positive patients in BIDMC’s ICUs over two days last week underscored that point: fewer than half were vaccinated.
During a live-streamed hearing of the Legislature’s COVID-19 Oversight Committee, health care and medical experts told Massachusetts lawmakers Thursday that the Omicron variant has the potential to significantly drive up case counts this winter, even among the fully vaccinated. Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) said there's no question that Massachusetts will see an increase in breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated if Omicron becomes the dominant strain, and that he remains optimistic that vaccines will continue to be highly effective in preventing severe disease.
The Boston Globe profiles Dan Barouch, MD, PhD...
Research from South Africa, Sweden, and Germany shows that Omicron does cause a loss of immune protection – but potentially not a complete. Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC), commented on how T cells also play an important role in protection against severe disease, and how in the weeks ahead, more clarity will also emerge from studies assessing the T cell response to Omicron.
Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) discusses work his lab is doing to help test various COVID-19 vaccines against the new variant Omicron.
A critical part of the effort to assess whether vaccines retain their effectiveness against the new Omicron virus variant is for scientists to gather the blood samples—specifically, serum, the portion of blood that remains after it has clotted—previously taken from people who received COVID-19 vaccines in clinical trials or from real-world use of the vaccines. Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) commented on how his lab is running these tests on serums from people vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as well as the shots from Pfizer and Moderna.
This Boston Globe piece provides a snapshot of South Africa’s COVID situation as Omicron takes hold, including how while data collected on the efficacy of the protection provided by existing COVID vaccines against Omicron is still being studied, some experts including Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC), believe the antibodies and immune cells stimulated by vaccines for the coronavirus will still provide some protection.
Researchers at BIDMC studied 65 people who had received two shots of the Pfizer vaccine and found that six months after the second dose, people who received Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines may get as much benefit from a Johnson & Johnson booster shot as a Pfizer one. Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) said there is early evidence to suggest that a mix-and-match boosting approach may provide individuals with different immune responses against COVID-19 than a homologous boosting approach.