Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech measured the amount of virus-blocking antibodies able to deal with the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of omicron. People over the age of 55 who received the updated booster vaccines had four times more antibodies than those who received the original vaccine series.
So far, uptake of the new boosters is slow. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than a quarter of people age 65 and older have received one of two so-called bivalent booster vaccines that target the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of omicron, as well as generic strain. About 10% of all adults received the updated boosters.
“As we head into the holiday season, we hope this updated data will encourage people to seek a bivalent Covid-19 booster as soon as they are eligible to maintain high levels of protection against the widespread omicron BA.4 and BA .5 sublines” , Pfizer CEO Albert Burla said in a written statement.
Vaccine Stocks: Boosting Antibodies
The researchers divided the participants into two groups. Recipients of a bivalent booster had previously received the original booster vaccine 10-11 months previously. The second group received another dose of the original booster approximately seven months after their previous dose.
In people aged 55 years and older, recipients of a bivalent booster had a 13.2-fold increase in antibodies directed against the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the omicron. By comparison, people in the same age group had a 2.9-fold increase in antibodies one month after receiving the original vaccine.
In people aged 18-55, the bivalent booster resulted in a 9.5-fold increase in antibodies. Pfizer and BioNTech did not provide a comparison for this age group after receiving the original vaccine. So the benefit for younger adults is less clear.
Today, the BA.5 subvariant still leads cases in the US, accounting for more than 39%. But BA.4 accounts for less than 1% of all cases. Meanwhile, the newer BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 sub-variants are climbing the case rankings. Together, they generated about 35 percent of the cases in the past week, according to the CDC.
The use of a booster will be important for vaccine stocks. Analysts are currently expecting a huge drop in sales in 2023.
Follow Alison Gatlin on Twitter at @IBD_AGatlin.
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