Two new studies show that the two COVID-19 mRNA vaccines now available in the U.S. appear to be completely safe for pregnant women. In one study, published in JAMA, an NIH-supported team led by Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC), wanted to learn whether vaccines would protect mother and baby. To find out, they enrolled 103 women, aged 18 to 45, who chose to get either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna mRNA vaccines from December 2020 through March 2021. After vaccination, women in all groups produced antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. The researchers also found those antibodies in infant cord blood and breast milk, suggesting that they were passed on to afford some protection to infants early in life.
The CDC’s independent group of scientists, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Processes, will meet and make a recommendation to CDC on booster shots, in the same way it has done with previously authorized coronavirus vaccines. Medical experts interviewed by ABC News concurred that booster shots are likely, but not necessarily inevitable, at least for this fall. Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) said that it is not yet clear whether we will need a booster shot this fall, winter, and if so, what that booster shot should be, but that the decision needs to be made based on public health solely and not on economic incentives of the vaccine developing companies.
Preeti Mehrotra, MD (Infection Control, BIDMC) spoke about the state’s COVID-19 vaccination rates, which outpace that of other parts of the country, and what it means to individual families. Mehrotra also noted that her sense of comfort is slowly growing but that there is still work to do.
According to a modeling study, the presence of even small quantities of infection-blocking antibodies in vaccinated people’s blood indicates that a vaccine is effective at protecting against COVID-19. Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) noted that more studies are needed to pin down which cells or molecules determine the level of protection
Researchers conducting a study in Spain have found that vaccinating people with both the Oxford–AstraZeneca and Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines produces a potent immune response against the virus which researchers hoped for and expected from mixing different vaccines, a strategy known as a heterologous prime and boost. Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) said the responses look promising and show the potential of heterologous prime–boost regimens.
As the virus surges in countries like India, where there aren’t enough vaccines, experts like Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) are focused on various COVID-19 variants to see if they pose a challenge to current vaccines, including one he helped develop for Johnson & Johnson.
Medical providers are seeing an increase in health problems as a direct result of pandemic-era living. Some of the health conditions doctors are seeing more of now include hair loss. Alexa Kimball, MD, MPH (President & CEO, Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians and Dermatology, BIDMC) said that the fall of 2020, primary care physicians and dermatologists started to notice a substantial increase in the number of people, particularly women, who were reporting that their hair was falling out in clumps. This phenomenon, called telogen effluvium, is typically caused by stress, illness or pregnancy.
Sharon Wright, MD, MPH (Infection Protection, BILH) commented that all three of the coronavirus vaccinations are extremely effective against severe disease, hospitalizations, and death.
A team of investigators led by Ashley L. O’Donoghue, PhD (Healthcare Delivery Science, BIDMC) found that an increase in access to naloxone could reduce some of the increases in fatal opioid overdoses during the COVID-19 pandemic.