New XBB variant of COVID-19 — bivalent booster vaccine works

XBB variant

Here we go with a new, kind of scary version of COVID-19 — the XBB variant, which is just one of several variants that are spreading across the world. I think we’ve heard and read about so many variants over the past two and a half years that it might appear to be background noise.

But the new XBB variant probably shouldn’t be ignored — it spreads faster and seems to evade the immune system. These two issues alone can become problematic as we enter the winter months.

This article will look at this variant (though I’m just picking on one out of dozens that appear to be circulating) because XBB seems to be a bit more virulent than others. But there’s good news too — the new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine boosters from Pfizer and Moderna appear to protect against the new variant.

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Second COVID vaccine booster now or wait for the new vaccine?

second COVID-19 vaccine booster

Someone asked me the other day whether she should get the extremely safe second COVID-19 vaccine booster now or wait for the new Omicron-adapted vaccines that are coming in the fall from Pfizer and Moderna. I didn’t know the answer, so I thought I would investigate. Maybe it will help you or someone you know with that decision too.

The actual answer is a bit complicated, but there appear to be some good, solid recommendations coming from people who are experts in containing this pandemic. Let’s take a look.

By the way, this old dinosaur got his first Moderna booster in October 2021 and received his second booster (this time Pfizer) in April 2022. I do practice what I rant about here!

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What would a time traveler from 2019 think about the COVID pandemic

COVID-19 pandemic

I was thinking about the COVID-19 pandemic recently, and I wondered how we would communicate with a time traveler from just two years ago. I had to do this thought exercise a few years ago when I had to create a paragraph in modern English that would make no sense to a time traveler from 1965. Think about the words that we use in common conversation that would make no sense to them — gigabytes, smartphones, internet, WiFi, gluten-free, and so many more.

While at my local coffee joint drinking my favorite and writing my previous blog post, someone said to me, “cool mask.” It’s a Star Trek mask — yes, I am a Trek nerd, don’t get me started. I then realized back in 2019, there is no way someone would put those two words together and make sense.

So, just to have fun on this Friday afternoon, I thought I’d list out some of the terms we use today that would be foreign to someone from 2019. Just a caveat first — some of these terms would be known by scientists and those who were involved with vaccines. But most would not have been said or understood in normal conversations.

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Examining the COVID Omicron variant — is it actually less dangerous?

COVID-19 omicron variant

This article, about examining the dangers of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, is a reprint of a comment made by the user Dave Barton in response to the article published yesterday regarding the effectiveness of boosters. I thought what he wrote was too important to be hidden in a Disqus comment. It was slightly edited for readability and style purposes.

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The future of the COVID-19 pandemic — vaccines are still the key

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We are heading towards the start of the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many people want to know what the future holds. Will there be more variants? Will we need more vaccines? Will there be more dumb ideas about the disease?

Well, I’m not a pseudoscientist, so I not only don’t make, but also I certainly don’t believe in predictions about the future course of the COVID-19 pandemic. But I think I can write down some science-based thoughts of what we might see over the next few months.

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Why do we need COVID vaccine boosters for the Omicron variant?

COVID-19 vaccine boosters omicron

I have seen a few comments about the need for COVID-19 vaccine boosters before and after the appearance of the new Omicron variant. Of course, anti-vaxxers use this as a reason to deny the effectiveness of the vaccine. However, I’ve even seen pro-vaxxers misunderstand why boosters are needed.

Today, Pfizer announced that its preliminary studies showed that individuals who have received boosters produce about 25X more neutralizing antibodies against the Omicron variant than those who received the COVID-19 vaccine alone. This is awesome news with the caveat that this has not been peer-reviewed or published, it is just a report from Pfizer itself. In the hierarchy of vaccine research, it is pretty low until it is published in a medical journal.

I’m going to try to explain the reasoning behind the need for COVID-19 vaccine boosters against the Omicron variant. I hope it provides some science-based facts about boosters so that it might help you in discussions about the vaccine and new variant. I’m dividing my explanation into three broad areas, with the intent to make the science as clear as I can.

And just to remind everyone, I am fully boosted with the Moderna vaccine.

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Omicron variant of COVID — some initial facts about vaccines

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Just when we thought we might be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for the COVID-19 pandemic, a new Omicron variant was discovered in Africa. Although many countries shut down travel from Africa, it’s probably too late — it probably was being spread before the Omicron variant was found.

Like when the Delta variant was first observed, there was a lot of confusion about how serious it was going to be and whether vaccines would be effective. It caused a surge in cases and deaths worldwide over the summer.

Although it’s very early, I think there is enough information to, at a minimum, understand what may be upcoming. Of course, as with everything about this pandemic, stay tuned because what we know today may be superseded by what we discover tomorrow.

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Increased risk of stillbirth among women with COVID-19 — get the vaccine

people woman sitting technology

The CDC just published a report that women who have COVID-19 at delivery have an increased risk of stillbirth compared to women who do not have the disease. If this isn’t a good reason for pregnant women to get the COVID-19 vaccine, I do not know what else to say.

This article will be very short because the published paper really provided only three pieces of data which are convincing reasons for pregnant women should get the COVID-19 vaccines.

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