Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech measured the amount of virus-blocking antibodies capable of handling the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of omicron. People older than age 55 who received the updated booster shots had four times as many antibodies as those given the original vaccine series.
So far, uptake of the new boosters is slow. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than a quarter of people age 65 and older have gotten one of the two so-called bivalent booster shots targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of omicron as well as the ancestral strain. About 10% of all adults have gotten the updated boosters.
“As we head into the holiday season, we hope these updated data will encourage people to seek out a Covid-19 bivalent booster as soon as they are eligible in order to maintain high levels of protection against the widely circulating omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-lineages,” Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said in a written statement.
Vaccine Stocks: Increase In Antibodies
Researchers split participants into two groups. Recipients of the bivalent booster previously received the original booster shot 10-11 months ago. The second group received another dose of the original booster roughly seven months after their previous dose.
In people age 55 and older, recipients of the bivalent booster had a 13.2-fold increase in antibodies that target the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of omicron. In comparison, people in the same age group had a 2.9-fold increase in antibodies one month following administration of the original vaccine.
In people age 18-55, the bivalent booster led to a 9.5-fold increase in antibodies. Pfizer and BioNTech didn’t provide a comparison for that age group after receiving the original vaccine. So, the benefit for younger adults is less clear.
Today, the BA.5 sub-variant still leads cases in the U.S., 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 in the case rankings. Together, they generated about 35% of cases over the last week, according to the CDC.
Booster use will be important for vaccine stocks. Analysts currently expect huge declines in sales in 2023.
Follow Allison Gatlin on Twitter at @IBD_AGatlin.
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