Scientists may be on the cusp of defining correlates – biological benchmarks that can show that a vaccine is achieving its desired effect – of protection against symptomatic disease for the COVID-19 vaccines. Kathryn Stephenson, MD, MPH (Infectious Disease, BIDMC) comments on the process and timeline of these determinations.
In an opinion piece for the Boston Globe, Mary LaSalvia, MD (Infectious Disease, BIDMC) and Kenneth Wener, MD (Infectious Disease, LHMC) joined other Boston infectious disease experts to address the COVID-19 questions they received from patients who are hesitant to get the vaccine with the goal of informing people, promoting fact-based decision making, and helping people join the 600 million people in the world who have opted to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Hospitals across the country are setting up programs to provide better treatment for people suffering from long-term symptoms of COVID-19. Jason Maley, MD (Pulmonary Disease, BIDMC) and Joseph Zibrak, MD (Pulmonary Disease, BIDMC) spoke about BIDMC’s recently launched the Critical Illness and COVID-19 Survivorship Program that aims to integrate care among pulmonary, critical care, sleep medicine, psychiatry, cognitive neurology, neurology, geriatrics, social work, and physical and occupational therapy clinicians.
Despite efforts to reach hard-hit populations, communities of color are continuing to experience vaccination rates that are considerably less than the overall population. In this opinion piece, co-authored by Juan Fernando Lopera(Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, BILH), the authors shared that BILH prioritized vaccination appointment scheduling outreach to patients who get their care at its community health centers and who live in 11 communities that were hardest hit by COVID. These initiatives targeted Latino and Black majority communities, including Chelsea, East Boston, Everett, Roxbury, Dorchester, and Holyoke.
Pfizer and BioNTech have released initial data from a study on booster shots for their COVID-19 vaccine, saying a third dose delivered about six months after the second shot has shown neutralization titers are five to 10 times higher than after two primary doses. The FDA and the CDC will determine if and when booster shots will be allowed. Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) told ABC News in late May that the pharmaceutical companies have an economic incentive and that a decision on booster shots should be made based on public health solely and not on economic incentives of the companies.
In this Psychiatry Times feature by Elizabeth LaSalvia, MD (Psychiatry, BIDMC), Jason Maley, MD (Pulmonary Disease, BIDMC) and Matcheri Keshavan, MD (Psychiatry, BIDMC), the authors examine the long-term mental health effects of COVID-19, with one in three COVID-19 survivors having persistent neurological and/or psychiatric issues. BIDMC has recently launched the Critical Illness and COVID-19 Survivorship Program that aims to integrate care among pulmonary, critical care, sleep medicine, psychiatry, cognitive neurology, neurology, geriatrics, social work, and physical and occupational therapy clinicians.
In an effort to ease tensions about getting children vaccinated this summer, during a virtual town hall for the cities of Somerville, Cambridge, Chelsea, and Framingham, Treniece Lewis Harris, PhD (Psychology, BIDMC) said that primary care doctors should have the training to listen to families about where they are coming from and to help educate them on the vaccine, and any other fears they may have.
The Delta variant continues to spread and now makes up a quarter of all New England cases. Sharon Wright, MD, MPH (Infection Protection, BILH) and other experts joined WBUR to answer questions on viruses, vaccines, and variants.
Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) discusses if it is necessary to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot and if they increase immune responses.
Preeti Mehrotra, MD (Infection Control, BIDMC) spoke to whether the CDC should update its face mask guidance for fully-vaccinated travelers and said that current vaccination rates, evidence of transmission on public transportation, and global vaccination rates for international travel should be evaluated when considering mask guidance updates.
A new study suggests the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines might offer protection for years even without a booster shot, but variants remain a wild card. The delta variant has now been identified in 49 states, and is especially dangerous to those who are not vaccinated. Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) said data suggests that some level of immunity will be long lasting and how that translates into actual protection remains to be determined.
Last week, major hospital systems in Boston, including BILH, announced COVID-19 vaccines will be a requirement for employees and as a condition of employment. Kevin Tabb, MD (CEO, BILH) explained that because some staff might feel more comfortable getting COVID-19 vaccine after it has been formally licensed by the FDA, the hospital system won’t require the vaccine until the emergency use authorization is lifted.
As hospitalizations increase in some parts of the U.S. due to the fast-spreading delta variant and low vaccination rates, vaccination remains the best protection against severe illness from COVID-19 and hospitalization spikes that can affect non-COVID care. Rishi Wadhera, MD, MPP, MPhil (Cardiology, BIDMC) said coronavirus surges disrupted routine screenings, outpatient care, and prescription services throughout the pandemic, including elective procedures and surgeries.
New research shows that a third dose of the vaccine could boost immunity for the roughly 10.5 million immunocompromised people in the United States, including those with autoimmune diseases. But some patients may simply never respond to the vaccine. Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) said there are always vaccine non-responders, even among individuals who are not immunocompromised.
Several of the state’s largest health care systems said on Thursday that they will require COVID vaccinations for all staff once it is fully licensed by the FDA. Kevin Tabb, MD (CEO, BILH) said in a video message to BILH employees that they have a responsibility to protect each other and their patients.
Two reports published in the Annals of Neurology detailed cases of an unusual variant of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) associated with the AstraZeneca adenovirus vector COVID-19 vaccine. Seward Rutkove, MD (Neurology, BIDMC) was quoted.
Brian Hollenbeck, MD (Infectious Disease, NEBH) explained what the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant could mean for people’s health and noted that the potential implications of it becoming the most dominant strain depends on vaccination progress at the time.
Reuters’ roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 includes a study by Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) published recently in the journal Nature that explored how vaccines protect against variants despite diminished antibodies.
Jason Maley, MD (Pulmonary, BIDMC), who leads BIDMC’s Critical Illness and COVID-19 Survivorship Program and has worked with hundreds of COVID-19 long-haulers, said individual patients report unique constellations of symptoms, but fatigue is the cohort’s most common—and longest-lasting—complaint. In addition to improving quality of life for its patients, Maley’s program seeks to uncover the biological underpinnings of the debilitating condition, which affects a still-unknown percentage of the virus’s survivors
In a study published in JAMA led by Ai-ris Collier, MD (OBGYN, BIDMC) and Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) researchers evaluated the immunogenicity of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines in pregnant and lactating women who received either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, finding that both triggered immune responses.