February 2, 2024 – If you are part of the minority of Americans who have received the latest COVID-19 vaccine, chances are you belong to the majority who currently or in the near future will not experience any COVID symptoms.
The CDC released initial data on the protection provided by the monovalent XBB.1.5 vaccine against the development of symptoms, including the JN.1 variant. Among recently vaccinated individuals, the vaccine offered 54% more protection against symptoms compared to unvaccinated Americans.
„These are really exciting data,“ said Dr. Luis Ostrosky, head of the Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology Department at UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann in Texas. „It’s truly fascinating to see a real-life study, not a clinical trial.“
Researchers surveyed individuals who had been tested for COVID and then inquired about their vaccination history. The downside is that only 22% of American adults have received the updated vaccine.
The current shot protects against a range of COVID variants, including the XBB variants prevalent last fall and the JN.1 variant, which became most common in December.
These are promising news for those looking to avoid COVID symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle or body aches, and shortness of breath.
While some may not think 54% sounds like a high percentage, it is equivalent to the approximately 60% protection against symptoms that comes with the flu shot each year, according to Ostrosky.
„The current vaccine seems to fit immunologically very well with JN.1,“ said Ostrosky. „However, we are very concerned about the lack of acceptance of this vaccine. But it’s never too late, is it?“
Public health experts have long emphasized that the COVID vaccines approved in September 2023 are less effective in preventing the transmission of the virus from one person to another. However, for the vaccinated individuals exposed to COVID, there is a much lower risk of developing severe illness, requiring hospitalization, or dying from COVID.
The 54% vaccine effectiveness is based on a study from September to early this month, involving 9,222 COVID tests as part of the Community Access to Testing SARS-CoV-2 Pharmacy Testing Program. Both CVS and Walgreens are participating in the program by reporting their COVID-19 test results.
The vaccine effectiveness was tested at a median of 52 to 60 days and up to 119 days post-vaccination. Researchers compared vaccinated adults with unvaccinated counterparts. All participants were immunocompetent, meaning they had no underlying immune conditions that would put them at higher risk for severe COVID illness.
The CDC reported the complete results in the Thursday Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
If you’re wondering about who is eligible for the vaccine and when babies can receive the COVID vaccine, the CDC recommends vaccination for all Americans aged 6 months and older.
Later this year, the CDC also plans to release information on how effective the COVID vaccines are in preventing individuals from seeking medical attention or hospitalization due to severe symptoms.