Another adventure in the ongoing saga,Tales of Covid. Despite all the perky reassurances that our initial Pfizer shots were still “highly” effective, whatever that means, Dear Husband and I were eager to get a third shot as soon as possible.
Breaking news Friday was that the Oregon Health Authority would follow the CDC’s Thursday booster recommendation for us 65+-ers as well as the immunocompromised and workers in potentially perilous industries.
Actually finding somewhere to do it was a bit more challenging. The first stop was a nearby RiteAid drugstore, where the apologetic youngster at the prescription drop-off told us they were waiting for the OR pharmacy board to also get on board so nothing was likely to happen any time soon.
Next stop: the Internet, to check availabilty through our local healthcare system. Although phone calls and attempting an online appointment proved futile, the walk-in urgent care clinic seemed poised to administer boosters, so off I went first thing Saturday morning while DH stayed behind to watch football and await my report. I expected long lines of eager seniors brandishing canes and face masks, but the clinic looked quite deserted.
I wasn’t optimistic, since the receptionist chirpily showed me a now-out-of-date notification that only mentioned the immunocomprised with an eight-month timeline for eligibility. But, to her credit, when I pointed out the smaller line reading “some people who received the Pfizer vaccine may get a booster six months after their second dose”, she allowed me to sign in. One of the few times that vagueness has been a benefit!
While waiting to be called back, I was happy to see two pairs of 20-somethings arriving for their second shots. The message is finally trickling down that the vaccine is a) effective and b) necessary if we’re ever going to beat this thing.
One quick jab, one sore arm, and several headaches later, I feel poised to rejoin the world with a bit less anxiety. DH, who received his booster Saturday afternoon, had more severe side effects — fatigue, soreness, headache, and feeling “flu-ish”– but is on the mend.
Immunity to the coronavirus lasts at least a year, possibly a lifetime, improving over time especially after vaccination, according to two new studies. The findings may help put to rest lingering fears that protection against the virus will be short-lived.
Together, the studies suggest that most people who have recovered from Covid-19 and who were later immunized will not need boosters. Vaccinated people who were never infected most likely will need the shots, however, as will a minority who were infected but did not produce a robust immune response.
Both reports looked at people who had been exposed to the coronavirus about a year earlier. Cells that retain a memory of the virus persist in the bone marrow and may churn out antibodies whenever needed, according to one of the studies, published on Monday in the journal Nature.
The other study, posted online at BioRxiv, a site for biology research, found that these so-called memory B cells continue to mature and strengthen for at least 12 months after the initial infection.
“The papers are consistent with the growing body of literature that suggests that immunity elicited by infection and vaccination for SARS-CoV-2 appears to be long-lived,” said Scott Hensley, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved in the research.
The studies may soothe fears that immunity to the virus is transient, as is the case with coronaviruses that cause common colds. But those viruses change significantly every few years, Dr. Hensley said. “The reason we get infected with common coronaviruses repetitively throughout life might have much more to do with variation of these viruses rather than immunity,” he said.
In fact, memory B cells produced in response to infection with SARS-CoV-2 and enhanced with vaccination are so potent that they thwart even variants of the virus, negating the need for boosters, according to Michel Nussenzweig, an immunologist at Rockefeller University in New York who led the study on memory maturation.
“People who were infected and get vaccinated really have a terrific response, a terrific set of antibodies, because they continue to evolve their antibodies,” Dr. Nussenzweig said. “I expect that they will last for a long time.”
The result may not apply to protection derived from vaccines alone, because immune memory is likely to be organized differently after immunization, compared with that following natural infection.
Upon first encountering a virus, B cells rapidly proliferate and produce antibodies in large amounts. Once the acute infection is resolved, a small number of the cells take up residence in the bone marrow, steadily pumping out modest levels of antibodies.
To look at memory B cells specific to the new coronavirus, researchers led by Ali Ellebedy of Washington University in St. Louis analyzed blood from 77 people at three-month intervals, starting about a month after their infection with the coronavirus. Only six of the 77 had been hospitalized for Covid-19; the rest had mild symptoms.
Antibody levels in these individuals dropped rapidly four months after infection and continued to decline slowly for months afterward — results that are in line with those from other studies.
Some scientists have interpreted this decrease as a sign of waning immunity, but it is exactly what’s expected, other experts said. If blood contained high quantities of antibodies to every pathogen the body had ever encountered, it would quickly transform into a thick sludge.
Almost half of Republican men say they will not choose to be vaccinated if given the chance, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
According to a survey taken March 3 through March 8, when asked whether they would choose to be vaccinated “if a vaccine for the coronavirus is made available to you,” 49% of Republican men said they will not get the vaccine. More than one-third of Republican women (34%) also said they will not get vaccinated, along with 36% of Independent men.
Nearly half of Trump supporters – 47% – said they would not take the vaccine.
While Republican men and Trump supporters are the biggest group that would refuse a vaccine, 37% of Latinos also said they will not get vaccinated; similarly, 37% of people younger than 45 would also not get the shot.
The poll also measured approval of President Joe Biden’s handling of the pandemic, which currently stands at 62% approval, and 30% disapproval. Thirty percent of Republicans and 22% of Trump supporters are among those who approve of Biden’s actions on the pandemic so far.
According to the survey, two-thirds of Americans say have either gotten the vaccine or will get it, and overall, only 30% say they won’t, down from 44% who said they would not get it when asked the same question in September 2020.
While the CDC hasn’t yet determined how many people need to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity in the U.S., Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said the number might need to be 75 to 85 percent of the population, up from earlier estimates of 60 to 70 percent, according to a New York Times report.
Great apes at the San Diego Zoo receive a Covid-19 vaccine for animals
By Stella Chan and Scottie Andrew, CNN
Updated 4:10 PM ET, Fri March 5, 2021Members of the San Diego Zoo’s orangutan and bonobo tribes have received a Covid-19 vaccine designated for non-human use, zoo officials said.
(CNN) Several great apes at the San Diego Zoo have been vaccinated against Covid-19 a few weeks after the zoo’s gorillas tested positive for the virus. Members of the zoo’s bonobo and orangutan troops were vaccinated using doses from a supply intended strictly for non-human use, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA) said in statement to CNN. Veterinarians identified members of the bonobo and orangutan troops most at risk who could be easily vaccinated, the organization said.
Vaccinations began in January and have continued up to this month, and the animals received their second dose after three weeks. “The animals are doing well and we have seen no adverse reactions from the vaccine. The wildlife in our care is closely monitored throughout their lives,” said Darla Davis, a SDZWA spokeswoman.
In January, eight of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s gorillas caught the virus, though their symptoms were mild and limited to coughing, congestion and fatigue. The troop has since fully recovered.
Shortly after 9 a.m. on Monday, vaccinations took place in Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, N.Y. The pandemic has scarred New York State profoundly, leaving more than 35,000 people dead and severely weakening the economy. The vaccinations started after the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Friday night, and as the U.S. coronavirus death toll approaches 300,000, with a steady surge in new cases daily.
While we wait, it’s also good to know that both mouthwash and baby shampoo have been shown to provide additional protection. (No, we aren’t supposed to gargle with baby shampoo or put mouthwash in our hair. It’s quite straightforward.)
What I really want to see, though, are some additional, mandatory vaccines:
Protection against false claims of fake news, fake election results, and generally fake anything you happen to disagree with
A vaccine against racism, antisemitism and Holocaust denial
100% protection against ignoring the reality of climate change
99.9% protection against stupidity — 100% being simply unrealistic
A vaccine against meanspiritedness, unneighborly behavior and selfishness
And, finally, a shot that will permanently erase 2020.
No time for an original post today, but want to share this encouraging article from my daily New York Times email briefing:
A running start for a vaccine at Oxford
Here’s promising news in the worldwide race to develop a vaccine to ward off the coronavirus. The Jenner Institute at Oxford University has one that seems to work in lab animals and is ready to test its effectiveness in humans, if regulators approve.
The institute had a big head start, our correspondent David D. Kirkpatrick reports. Its scientists had an approach that they already knew was safe: They had proved it in trials last year for a vaccine to fight MERS, a respiratory disease caused by a closely related virus.
That has enabled the institute to skip ahead and schedule tests of its new Covid-19 vaccine on more than 6,000 people by the end of May, hoping to show not only that it is safe, but also that it works.
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana got very good results when they tried out the Oxford vaccine last month on six rhesus macaque monkeys. The animals were then exposed to heavy quantities of the coronavirus. After more than four weeks, all six were still healthy.
“The rhesus macaque is pretty much the closest thing we have to humans,” said Vincent Munster, the researcher who conducted the test.
Immunity in monkeys doesn’t guarantee that a vaccine will protect people, but it’s an encouraging sign. If the May trials go well and regulators grant emergency approval, the Oxford scientists say they could have a few million doses of their vaccine available by September — months ahead of other vaccine projects.
“It is a very, very fast clinical program,” said Emilio Emini of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is helping to finance a number of competing efforts.
All in the genes: The Jenner Institute isn’t following the classic approach of using a weakened version of the disease pathogen. Instead, its approach starts with another familiar virus, neutralizes it and then genetically modifies it so that it will prompt the body to produce the right antibodies for Covid-19.
Researchers originally cooked up the technology in a quest to develop a vaccine for malaria, which is caused by a parasite. No luck there yet. But when the idea was borrowed to go after MERS, it worked well.