COVID vaccine booster effectiveness may wane quickly against Omicron

This pandemic just doesn’t give us much good news — research from the UK indicates that COVID-19 vaccine booster effectiveness may wane significantly at the 10-week mark post-vaccination. This may allow the Omicron variant to spread much further than originally hoped.

Before I explain the research, I want to make a few things very clear. First, this doesn’t mean the vaccine is ineffective, it is just that the immunity appears to wane more quickly than other vaccines. Second, this doesn’t mean that the vaccines are worthless — hospitalization and, more importantly, death rates are much lower in the vaccinated group. And finally, this is how science works — we accumulate data and then, after reviewing the data, change recommendations.

Let’s take a look at this new research and determine what it may mean for future vaccination efforts.

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Pfizer and Moderna mRNA COVID vaccines are really vaccines – obviously

person aspirating the vaccine from the vial

Here we go again – I keep seeing the new anti-vaxxer claim that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are not, in fact, vaccines but are either “medical devices” or “gene therapy.” I keep trying to stay up with every single myth and trope pushed by the anti-vaxxers, but I swear that there’s a new one every day.

I would really love to write about something other than COVID-19 vaccines – I’ve got a ton of articles I want to write about GMOs, supplements, and cancer that are just sitting in a virtual pile on my desk. Unfortunately, I’m very worried that the anti-vax hatred of these new vaccines will allow this pandemic to keep going. That’s why many of us keep doing the best we can to stamp out the myths.

Just to be clear, the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are actually vaccines – they are biological preparations that provide active acquired immunity to an infectious disease, in this case, COVID-19. But, I’m going to have to debunk these myths.

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Steven Brandenburg destroys COVID-19 vaccines because they change DNA

Steven Brandenburg

In between all of the bad news going on in the world, you may have missed the story of Steven Brandenburg, the anti-vaccine pharmacist who intentionally destroyed numerous vials of the Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, which had recently received an emergency use authorization from the US FDA.

At first, it was thought it was unintentional. When you are moving quickly to vaccinate healthcare workers and others against the deadly disease, maybe Steven Brandenburg, a licensed pharmacist, just got so busy that he left the vaccine on a table until it was too late. I have been involved with vaccines for a long time, and I cannot begin to count how many times people have spoiled vaccines because of forgetfulness, not understanding how they should be stored, or a plethora of other reasons.

Once it became clear what had happened, Brandenburg was fired by his employer, Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wisconsin, and eventually arrested for destroying over 500 doses in about 53 vials of the vaccine. Maybe one could be excused for accidentally spoiling 5 vials of the critical vaccine. But 53 vials are strong evidence of criminal intent (note, I am not an attorney, nor do I play one on the internet). 

Steven Brandenburg was charged with felony charges of reckless endangerment and property damage, though prosecutors said the charges could be dropped to a single misdemeanor if the vials, which have yet to be tested, are still usable. He is out of jail on a $10,000 bond.

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COVID-19 vaccine facts and myths – UPDATED info about the new vaccines

COVID-19 vaccine facts

There are so many myths about the COVID-19 vaccine, I wanted to post some facts about the new vaccines which we can use for debunking purposes. I used to think that the HPV vaccine brought the most hatred and misinformation from the anti-vaccine world, but it’s clear that the new COVID-19 vaccines are their new targets.

This article will only focus on the five vaccines that I believe will eventually receive FDA or European Medicines Agency (EMA) approval – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ Janssen), and Novavax vaccines. I remain unconvinced that any vaccine made in China or the Russian Sputnik V vaccine will ever get approved by countries with robust drug regulatory agencies. However, if they are, I will certainly add them to a future iteration of this list.

I’m going to make this in a basic chart form for ease of use. I will link to supporting evidence wherever relevant.

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Comparing COVID drugs from Pfizer and Merck — vaccines still critical

COVID drugs pfizer merck

Pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Merck have developed new COVID-19 drugs that could become a part of the tools used by physicians to treat COVID. Because of the importance of these drugs, both companies are seeking Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) from the US FDA to get them in the hands of physicians as quickly as possible.

I have previously written about the Merck drug, molnupiravir, which will go by the trade name of Lagevrio. The Pfizer drug is called PF-07321332, with the trade name Paxlovid. Both drugs are purpose-developed anti-viral medications that have shown strong effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. These are real antiviral drugs that were developed to treat COVID-19, unlike horse dewormers that have no effect against COVID-19.

This article will be in the form of a simple chart so that you can quickly see the advantages and disadvantages of both Pfizer and Merck COVID-19 drugs. I hope you find this helpful, and drop a note in the comments if you want me to add or change any information.

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Prior COVID infection will not keep you out of the hospital – get the vaccine

ambulance architecture building business

I recently discussed a new CDC study that stated that the COVID-19 vaccines provided better protection than a previous infection. Unfortunately, I buried the lede – COVID-19 vaccines are better than a prior COVID-19 infection in keeping you out of the hospital.

Not to be repeatedly repetitive, but I am going to re-review that paper in light of the lede – in other words, the anti-vaxxers keep ranting on about a prior COVID-19 infection. I don’t think it means what they think it means.

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mRNA cancer vaccine – immunotherapy for colorectal cancer

mRNA cancer vaccine

Germany-based BioNTech, the company that developed the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine with Pfizer, has announced an mRNA cancer vaccine for colorectal cancer. I hate to get excited about new technologies, but it’s clear that mRNA vaccines could lead to a lot of advances in medicine.

Let’s take a look at this new therapy for colorectal cancer, one of the deadliest cancers.

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FDA approval of Pfizer COVID vaccine – why did it take so long?

FDA approval pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

One of the questions I keep seeing is why did it take so long for FDA approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty? The answer is complicated, but the basic issue is that the FDA is very conservative in approving drugs – I bet that will surprise everyone.

I’m going to delve into a couple of issues with the FDA and its approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Even though some people argue that it took too long to go from the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to full approval, it was, in fact, fairly rapid. Remember, clinical trials only commenced maybe 15 months ago, so this is warp speed compared to the usual vaccine timeline that may be nearly 10 years.

Many of us thought that it would take up to three years before we had COVID-19 vaccines available – I’m willing to eat humble pie on blowing that prediction, but it’s amazing what happens when governments, scientists, and pharmaceutical companies can do when they are all focused on a common goal. Not for nothing, but why can’t we do the same thing with climate change – a lot more of us are at risk of that than COVID-19, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Let’s take a brief look at why some of you are wondering why it took so long for the FDA approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

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Myocarditis and COVID mRNA vaccines – very rare adverse event

myocarditis covid mRNA vaccines

Regulatory agencies, such as the FDA and CDC, are monitoring reports of myocarditis, a heart inflammation, after COVID-19 mRNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer. Although myocarditis after these vaccines are exceedingly rare, anti-vaccine activists have already jumped on this issue to make it appear that COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous.

My job is to look at this data and give you a scientific analysis of the observations and whether they are actually related to the vaccine.

Like with reports of other conditions, such as blood clots, after receiving COVID-19 vaccines, we need to examine whether myocarditis is actually related to the vaccine or just random events in which the incidence is no different than what would be predicted in a similar group of unvaccinated people. And if it is linked, we need to look at the potential risk and compare it to the risks of COVID-19 itself.

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