Covid booster jab provides near total defence, study shows – ‘Excellent protection'

A new study initiated by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE concluded that a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine was 95.6% effective against the coronavirus when compared to a vaccinated group that did not get the third shot. Published on Thursday, the study has not been submitted for peer review yet but the companies said they would submit detailed results of the trial for peer-reviewed publication to the FDA, the European Medicines Agency and other regulatory agencies, as soon as possible.

Around 10,000 people enrolled in the study and had all received two doses of the vaccine in its earlier trials.

The median age of the participants was 53 years, with 55.5% of participants between 16 and 55 years, and 23.3% at 65 years or older.

The drugmakers said on Thursday the median time between the second dose and the booster shot or the placebo in the study was around 11 months.

There were only five cases of COVID-19 in the booster group, compared with 109 cases in the group that received the placebo shot.

There were no reported cases of severe disease, suggesting robust protection from infection with only the primary vaccination series, analyst Michael Yee wrote in a note.

An earlier study, looking at real-world data from Israel, found a similar boost in protection against serious illness.

Since its early introduction of a booster programme, Israel has seen a steady fall in its case rates and hospital admissions.

“These two studies show the booster jab provides excellent protection against both mild and more serious Covid-19 infections so should both reduce the infection rates in the community and the pressure on hospital services,” said Professor Jeremy Brown, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

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A booster administered about 11 months after the second shot had a favourable safety profile and worked against the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, Pfizer said.

In the UK, the JCVI has advised people to wait for six months after their second dose for the booster shot to ensure that immunity is maintained through the winter months.

Professor Adam Finn of the University of Bristol, another JCVI member, said that boosters would “make only a modest difference” to infection rates.

“Tinkering with the dose interval might drive the numbers of people getting a third dose up a bit sooner but this is arguing over the pennies while letting the pounds — measures to reduce transmission: masks, distancing, lateral flow test — look after themselves,” he told The Times.

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The prime minister has been pushing vaccine chiefs to change their advice and let people have boosters sooner.

Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary, called for boosters to be brought forward and was praised by Boris Johnson who said he made an “extremely important point.”

Number 10’s spokesman later said that he expected the JCVI to “keep that [gap] under review and if they were to change the advice we would want to be in a position to move on that.”

While ministers want the JCVI to look at it again, they are not planning to override their advice.

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