It seems like not a day goes by without a new Covid-19 study to spark a bit of anxiety: Moderna Makes Twice as Many Antibodies as Pfizer, Study Says; Previous Covid Prevents Delta Infection Better Than Pfizer Shot; South African Scientists Say New Variant May Have ‘Increased Transmissibility.’ Despite the flood of information, humanity is still struggling to answer countless Covid-related questions: Are breakthrough cases now the norm? Do I need a booster shot? Are my antibodies waning?
Whether you Google these questions, or phone your mother to see what she thinks, the answers you receive are bound to be at best varied and at worst contradictory or even wrong. “A year and a half into the pandemic, Americans are more confused than ever about the risks they face, and that goes for experts and lay people alike,” writes Faye Flam in her latest column.
So let’s get back to basics and begin with a simple fact: Vaccine protection is fading. But like a good pair of jeans that seem to fit better over time, this is a natural development. Vaccines still work! And your jeans still look great, even with that mustard stain! Those who got the jab earlier this year still have incredibly good protection against this virus, and even better protection against severe disease and death.
You still might be wondering, how is my vaccine doing? Some of us got one shot, others two depending on the vaccine, and they’re all faring slightly differently in a delta-riddled world. In the U.K., the ZOE COVID Study wanted to find out whether any of their app contributors reported a positive test result between late May – when delta became the U.K.’s dominant strain – through the end of July. The study revealed that initial protection against the virus a month after the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech shot was 88%. After five to six months, protection fell to 74%. For the AstraZeneca jab, there was about 77% protection a month after the second dose, which fell to 67% after four to five months. Take comfort in these numbers because it’s not as though the clock has struck midnight and protection goes poof like Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage:
As we continue to track and examine the efficacy of vaccines, variants remain a large concern. One tweak to the virus’s genetic code can wreak havoc on entire countries, causing illness and hospitalizations to soar. It seems like there’s always a new Greek letter we’re learning about. Alpha, delta and now mu, which originated in Colombia. Although this latest variant of interest accounts for less than 0.1% of global Covid cases, it’s on the rise in South America. In Colombia, 39% of Covid infections have been linked to the mu variant:
The question is now whether we should supply already-vaccinated people in places like the U.S. with boosters or donate vaccines to prevent new variants like mu from breaking out in less economically developed parts of world. Although wealthy nations have seen their vaccinated numbers grow immensely in the past year, globally there’s still a long way to go:
On the booster front, there hasn’t been much consensus, in part because President Joe Biden didn’t wait to get the blessing of health authorities before setting the target date for a late September booster rollout. That plan is now in doubt, explains health care columnist Max Nisen: “The desire for speed is understandable; people are scared and want to be as safe as possible. But setting a date before experts weighed in was a mistake.”
(Jessica Karl is a social media editor for Bloomberg Opinion. She previously interned for CNN Opinion and Nylon magazine.)
(Lara Williams manages Bloomberg Opinion’s social media channels.)
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