Second booster shields elderly from COVID short-term

A fourth dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine lowered rates of COVID-19 among the elderly but the protection against infection appeared short-lived, a large study in Israel has found.

The second booster’s protection against infection dwindled after four weeks, Israeli researchers showed in their study published on Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Protection against severe illness did not wane during the six weeks after the dose but more follow-up study was needed to evaluate its longer-term protection, the researchers said.

The study on 1.3 million people age 60 and older looked at data from the Israeli Ministry of Health database between Jan. 10 and March 2, when the Omicron variant was predominant.

It comes ahead of a meeting of the US Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday to discuss the need for additional boosters, a week after the United States authorized a second booster shot for people age 50 and older amid a spread of the Omicron sub-variant BA .2.

European health ministers have also urged the bloc’s governments to back a fourth dose for people over 60.

Vaccine vial.
A study from Israel showed that seniors who received a second Pfizer booster had a 78% lower mortality rate than those who got just one.
Amir Cohen/REUTERS

In Asia, South Korea started giving out fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines in February and Singapore has said a second booster dose is planned for those age 80 and older.

Another study from Israel showed last month that seniors who received a second booster of the Pfizer Inc./BioNTech SE COVID-19 vaccine had a 78% lower mortality rate than those who got just one.

Israel started offering a second booster in January.

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