COVID-19: Weekly Update (September 5, 2022)

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved updated COVID-19 booster shots targeting the latest Omicron variants. A study from Israel suggests that the antiviral drug Paxlovid is more effective in adults aged 65 and older.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows that the number of new daily cases, hospitalizations, and deaths plateaued.

As of September 1, 67.5% of the US population were fully vaccinated, and almost half of them received their first booster dose. However, only one-third (34%) of eligible people receive a second booster dose.

Booster shots approved

The FDA authorized updated COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech to use as a single booster dose in all adults over 18 and in individuals 12 years of age and older, respectively. People are eligible for an updated booster dose at least two months following primary or booster vaccination.

Both vaccines target the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, which account for more than 90% of new COVID-19 cases in the US.

The currently administered monovalent Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine remains authorized as a single booster dose for individuals 5 through 11 years of age at least five months after completing a primary vaccine series.

On Thursday, the CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on the recommendation of the agency's independent vaccine advisers in favor of updated Covid-19 booster shots.

The approval relied on data presented at the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) meeting on September 1-2, 2022. There is currently no data from clinical trials to demonstrate the vaccine's effectiveness in humans.

The approval relied on pre-clinical trials in mice and immuno-bridging data showing comparable antibody responses. Observational data following approval will shed more light on effectiveness in various at-risk groups.

Life expectancy dropped

Life expectancy at birth in the US declined from 77.0 to 76.1 years last year, according to new provisional data from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Along with a 1.8-year drop in 2020, it was the biggest two-year decline in life expectancy since 1921-1923.

"The declines in life expectancy since 2019 are largely driven by the pandemic. COVID-19 deaths contributed to nearly three-fourths or 74% of the decline from 2019 to 2020 and 50% of the decline from 2020 to 2021," the CDC statement says.

The report reveals that non-Hispanic American Indian-Alaskan Native people had the biggest drop in life expectancy in 2021 – 1.9 years, while non-Hispanic white people had the second biggest decline in life expectancy – from 77.4 in 2020 to 76.4 in 2021.

Life expectancy at birth of non-Hispanic Black declined from 71.5 years in 2020 to 70.8 in 2021.

Paxlovid is effective in older adults

New research published in the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine examined data from 109,254 COVID-19 patients in Israel who were 40 years and older, of whom 3,902 received the oral protease inhibitor nirmatrelvir Paxlovid.

Study authors found that among patients 65 years or older, the rates of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19 were significantly lower among those who received nirmatrelvir than among those who did not. No evidence of benefit was found in younger adults.

However, the study authors note that only a minority of patients identified as high-risk and eligible for nirmatrelvir therapy received antiviral therapy. And since severe symptoms in hospitalized patients were not reported consistently, it is likely that the treatment effect was underestimated in this study.


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