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December 11, 2021

Protect Yourself Against Omicron - Get a Booster NOW!

One of the most important questions about the omicron variant is whether it can escape our immune protection - after a Covid infection or full vaccination. To study "immune escape" of a variant the virus or a construct of the virus is mixed with serum obtained from previously infected or vaccinated people.  Several "neutralizing antibody" studies were published this week and in general the serum samples did not "neutralize" the virus well.  But Pfizer reported their results of neutralizing antibodies in serum collected from vaccinated patients after 2 doses of vaccine or two doses of vaccine plus a booster.  I don't have detailed knowledge of these neutralizing antibody lab tests but here are their more encouraging results. My simple way of understanding these tests is - how much do the antibodies that our bodies make kill the virus of interest. 

Reported results on the Pfizer web page: 

1.  Sera from subjects who received two doses of the Pfizer Covid vaccine did exhibit, on average, more than a 25-fold reduction in neutralization titers against the omicron variant compared to the wild type virus (the original virus). This means the antibodies had much less ability to kill the omicron virus vs the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. 

2.  Serum antibodies obtained from vaccinees 1 month after subjects received a Pfizer booster vaccination neutralized the omicron variant to levels observed for the wild type (original SARS-CoV-2 virus) after two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.  The booster doses were shown to increase antibody titers 25 fold.  A third dose of vaccine also increases a type of T cells which can kill the virus.  See Below.  

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The next step is to study subjects who were vaccinated with 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and then received a booster 6 months after their 2nd dose in order to analyze which subjects are getting infected at least a month after their booster dose - a real world observational assessment.  The CDC and the scientists working on the Covid projects are recommending that everyone receive a booster shot.  Meanwhile the company is starting to prepare a spike protein with mutations to use to make mRNA vaccines in order to cover the variants.  They also did the same thing after the emergence of the other variants, but never had to make the vaccine. I searched and couldn't find any omicron studies and the Moderna vaccine. 

December 8, 2021

WAITING and HOPING

While we wait, scientists around the world are studying the omicron variant in many different ways.   One lab in Texas created a "spike protein look alike" with most of the new mutations so they can begin to study the effect of antibodies against the variant.  Other labs started the preliminary work toward a variant-specific vaccine booster.  Earlier in the pandemic labs were developing vaccines against specific alpha, beta, and delta variants of SARS-CoV-2 as they were discovered just so they would be ready to go if another variant was less controlled by our current vaccines. 

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE OMICRON VARIANT?  

Transmission: it may be more transmissible. There is clear evidence of community spread.

Severity: probably not as severe as Delta, based on the cases seen so far.  A better indicator is the number of hospitalizations and it may be too early to assess now with the recent cases.

Immune escape:  unknown, but one of the monoclonal antibodies (Sotrovimab) was reported to have activity against omicron and the previous variants. 

But it is still too early to have hundreds of pieces of data, from the laboratories and from real world observations, testing, and genomic sequencing. I will try to cover the observations in these Blog posts/Facebook entries as they are reported over the next few weeks.  See Below

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Barney Graham, a key architect of the coronavirus vaccines, recently retired from NIH.  This week, in an article from The Washington Post he said "because viruses adapt and they change, and unless we develop generalized global immunity more readily, we will always be chasing our tail."  While we wait for more omicron data, protect your family by getting vaccinated and boosted.  Remember that two doses of the mRNA vaccines are necessary to establish immunity against severe disease and death. And this AM there was a brief news report from Pfizer that the booster dose is essential and effective.  More later.

December 4, 2021

Omicron Updates Week of 11.28

The Omicron variant is spreading more quickly in South Africa than the delta variant did.  Hospitalizations there are also greater than in previous waves.  The first case in the US was announced in San Francisco Wed. after travel to S. Africa. Thursday evening the NY Governor announced 5 cases in NY, one woman who was in S. Africa.  No more was known yet about the other 4.  There was also one case in Minneapolis which occurred after a man returned home from an ANIME Convention at the Javits Center in NYC from Nov 19-22nd.  There were 53,000 attendees and our Governor thinks all of them should be tested - wherever they returned to.  There are now more than a dozen cases in the US in a dozen states and as of Friday afternoon the variant was found in 36 countries.

The South Africans reported that reinfections are occurring in patients who had Covid more than 90 days ago.  This lack of immunity was not seen there previously when the beta and delta variants spread in their country.  The early anecdotes and scraps of data suggest that most of these cases are mild. However hospitalizations and deaths usually follow surges by 2 weeks, so those patients diagnosed during this early surge (from 3402 cases on 11/26 to 8561 on 12/1) will need to be assessed in several weeks for information about the severity of the Omicron infections.  See Below 

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We can't build a wall around America, but our public health advisors have encouraged more people to get vaccinated now, or get boosters if they are already vaccinated, and curtail risky behavior until more is known about our vulnerability to Omicron. Those that only had one dose of the mRNA vaccines definitely need to get a 2nd dose now for any protection.  The booster shots substantially increase antibody titers and raise the level of B and T cells which may be enough to block or reduce the Omicron infection if you are exposed.  Data reported here Friday was encouraging with 2.2 million doses of vaccine given yesterday with more than 1 million of them being booster doses. The most common question I've heard asked or read is whether people should wait for a the new Covid vaccines to be made to get a booster and the answer is always "NO!!!  Get a booster now!"  We need testing for as many symptomatic people as possible and sequencing of their viruses to know whether Omicron can compete with the delta variant which currently accounts for 100% of infections here. 

November 27, 2021

A Really Happy Family Thanksgiving

Last year my husband and I made our favorite Tortilla Soup recipe (from Rick Bayliss - Chicago) for our "Thanksgiving dinner for 2" because there were no vaccines, Covid risk was high, and we just wanted something that we love but rarely make.  Each of our 3 children and their families had small Thanksgiving dinners in their own homes. This year everyone is vaccinated, and only two of our 8 grandchildren (9 year olds) are not fully vaccinated yet.  One had his 2nd dose Wed. and the other one will get his 2nd dose today.  Our son made sure we all had a negative rapid test and then we had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner for 17.  

This is a picture of our 8 grandchildren having a wonderful time all together before dinner.  The words on the wall say "Be Light Hearted."  We enjoyed every minute of the day! 

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November 24, 2021

Covid Updates: Child Vaccine, Unvaccinated, and Federal Mandate

I was planning to review recent Covid topics today and then I read my physician son Jason's daily Covid review and he was happy for me to share it.  He has been my "guest contributor" several previous times.
 
• Pfizer released the longer-term results from its adolescent vaccine study this week, and it's amazing — there have been *ZERO* cases of COVID in the vaccinated 12–15-year-olds, compared with 30 in the placebo group, for an efficacy rate of 100%. This data will surely be submitted soon to request full approval for the vaccine for the 12+ population, which is the precursor to being able to give that group a third shot… all in all, this is pretty fantastic.

• The CDC released this month's data, breaking case and death rates down by vaccination status, and unsurprisingly, unvaccinated people remain MASSIVELY more likely to get COVID and die than those who've gotten their shots — 6x more likely to get infected, and 14x more likely to die.
 

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 • 95% of federal employees have complied with the US government's vaccine mandate by the deadline, meaning millions of civil servants will be able to safely continue serving and representing America as the pandemic rages on. What a great example of how mandates just plain work, and how they strengthen us as a nation.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM OUR HOUSE TO YOUR HOUSE!   

 

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