COVID19 mini-update, August 20, 2021: recovery vs. vaccine immunity; Moderna superior to Pfizer?; Israel expands booster shots; FB censor fail of the day

Some important updates today:

(a) While Israel has always treated recovery from a documented infection as equivalent to vaccination, this point of view is considered almost heretical in certain other countries (USA, cough, cough). The head of the Infectious Diseases ward at [redacted] told me during a chance social meeting: “At least as good as the best vaccines, possibly better”. I could, however, not get hold of any hard data I could share here. This has changed now.

A team from Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Medicine, led by one Koen Pouwels (name sure sounds Dutch or Flemish to me) just released this preprint on their website:

(1) Pouwels, K. B.; Pritchard, E.; Matthews, P. C.; Stoesser, N.; Eyre, D. W. et al., Impact of Delta on Viral Burden and Vaccine Effectiveness against New SARS-CoV-2 Infections in the UK. Oxford univ. Prepr.

There is a lot of information there, but the main thing I wanted to highlight is this table:

blue=Pfizer; yellow=AstraZeneca; orange=Moderna; green=recovered from actual infection.
Ct<30 means a positive PCR test with a cycle count less than thirty (more likely to be symptomatic); Ct>30 means above thirty cycles (more likely to be asymptomatic, RNA debris of of past infection, or just exposure to the pathogen)

In other words, my interlocutor is correct, and “natural” immunity from past infections is fairly robust. I would love to see data on how it decays over time.

But the other bit of info is how well even a single shot of Moderna works. (The researchers did not yet have enough data for two Moderna shots: the UK predominantly uses AstraZeneca and Pfizer.)

(b) Speaking of Moderna: here is a new study from the Mayo Clinic comparing Moderna to Pfizer and unvaccinated, using a “triplet match” technique in which equally sized samples were extracted, with matching ages, ethnicities,… of Moderna vaccinees, Pfizer vaccinees, and unvaccinated. (Hat tip: Dr. Leila.)

(1) Puranik, A.; Lenehan, P. J.; Silvert, E.; Niesen, M. J. M.; Corchado-Garcia, J.; Oâ Horo, J. C.; Virk, A.; Swift, M. D.; Halamka, J.; Badley, A. D.; et al. Comparison of Two Highly-Effective MRNA Vaccines for COVID-19 during Periods of Alpha and Delta Variant Prevalence. medRxiv  Prepr. Serv. Heal. Sci. 2021, 2, 1–29.

This is probably the moneygraph (literally, not “moneygraf”):

mRNA-1273=Moderna; BNT162b2=Pfizer-BioNTech

This graph is nothing short of stunning to me. We already knew Pfizer and Moderna both offer very strong (95% range) initial protection after two doses, and above we saw that Moderna does considerably better after the first dose — but now it also appears that Moderna’s protection is longer-lasting than Pfizer’s. From the abstract:

[…] Comparing rates of infection between matched individuals fully vaccinated with mRNA-1273 [=Moderna] versus BNT162b2 [=Pfizer] across Mayo Clinic Health System sites in multiple states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, and Iowa), mRNA-1273 conferred a two-fold risk reduction against breakthrough infection compared to BNT162b2 (IRR [=incidence rate ratio]= 0.50, 95% CI [=confidence interval]: 0.39-0.64). In Florida, which is currently experiencing its largest COVID- 19 surge to date, the risk of infection in July after full vaccination with mRNA-1273 was about 60% lower than after full vaccination with BNT162b2 (IRR: 0.39, 95% CI: 0.24-0.62). […]

(c) Israel is now over 60% third shots of over-60s (and one-quarter in the 50-59 age cohort), and reportedly the results are so encouraging that the cabinet decided this morning to expand the campaign to anyone over 40 who wants them (and hasn’t had a jab in at least the past 5 months).

“[…] According to experts on the health panel cited by the network, those vaccinated with a booster shot are six to eight times less likely to have a severe case of the disease and four times less likely to get infected, compared with those who received two doses.

The experts also increasingly believe that the Delta variant is not particularly capable of bypassing the Pfizer vaccine used in Israel, rather, it is simply the waning effect of previous shots that is causing vaccinated people to fall ill, according to former Health Ministry director-general Gabi Barbash.”

In this interview (in Hebrew) on YNet, Prof. Ran Balicer, head of the research department of Clalit Health Services [our largest HMO], sounds guardedly optimistic. “The bad news is that we have the fastest spread in the world right now, the good news is that in the 60+ group [the first to get the boosters], the growth slowed down, now maybe has come to a halt.” He shared this graph on his Tw*tter feed:

the pink line in the left graph is the 7-day moving average

Now does that mean we will have to get boosters every 6 months until this epidemic ends? Or, my mind wonders, give Moderna as the booster and then maybe get at least 1 year out of it? (I’ve gotten multiple reports of first-time vaccinees now being given Moderna here, in light of (b).)

I should point out that there is at least one widely used vaccine group with a 3-dose schedule in months 0, 1, and 6: Havrix, Twinix, etc. for Hepatitis B. (Twinix is a mixture of Havrix with a Hepatitis A vaccine. Hepatitis A is a milder, but much more contagious disease, often foodborne. Both diseases are endemic in the entire Middle East, so we got Twinix when we first moved here.) At least against Hepatitis B, protection from 3 doses appears to be long-lasting. ()

(d) which brings me to the Derpseal of the Week. I have gone on a social media detox diet a while ago, but today, i response to a comment I’d left in some talkback section of a newspaper, Facebook decided to censor me for posting a “spam link”. This was a link to a really really dank conspiracy theory website, namely…. the Hepatitis B Foundation

2 thoughts on “COVID19 mini-update, August 20, 2021: recovery vs. vaccine immunity; Moderna superior to Pfizer?; Israel expands booster shots; FB censor fail of the day

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