A healthcare professional prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine for health and social care workers at the Life Science Centre at the International Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne, northeast England, on Jan 9, 2021. (OWEN HUMPHREYS / POOL / AFP)
LONDON / ADDIS ABABA – Vaccination after infection with SARS-CoV-2 may contribute to a reduction in the burden of long COVID-19 symptoms, a new study suggests.
Researchers tracked 6,729 volunteers ages 18 to 69, who got two shots of either AstraZeneca's viral vector vaccine or an mRNA vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna after recovering from an infection with the coronavirus and who reported long COVID-19 symptoms of any severity at least once between February and September 2021.
The odds of reporting long COVID-19 – symptoms lasting at least 12 weeks – fell by an average of 13 percent after a first vaccine dose, the researchers reported on Wednesday in The BMJ.
The second dose, given 12 weeks after the first, was associated with a further 9 percent decrease in the odds of long COVID-19 that persisted for at least 9 weeks, on average, the researchers said. The odds of reporting long COVID-19 severe enough to result in functional impairment were similarly reduced, researchers reported.
Outcomes were similar regardless of vaccine type, interval from infection to first vaccine dose, underlying health status, or severity of COVID-19. However, the study was not designed to detect such differences, nor can it definitively prove that vaccines lower the odds of long COVID-19.
In this file photo taken on Dec 8, 2021, a woman is vaccinated by a member of the Western Cape Metro EMS in an ambulance which has been converted to facilitate vaccinations at a COVID-19 vaccination event in Cape Town. RODGER BOSCH / AFP
There is a possibility that a new COVID-19 variant would emerge in Africa in a foreseeable future, Ahmed Ogwell, the acting director of the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has warned.
"The increase is a clear sign that there is (a) high possibility a new variant, which is more transmissible, is to appear," Ogwell said during a weekly briefing Thursday.
According to figures from the Africa CDC, the African continent has seen a 36 percent average increase of new COVID-19 cases over the past four weeks, with Central and Eastern Africa regions reporting increasing new COVID-19 cases by 113 and 54 percent, respectively.
The Africa CDC, the specialized healthcare agency of the African Union, called for increased testing to locate which part of the continent the new variant would be appearing in.
"We need to do more testing and sequencing so that we can be able to understand where the outbreaks are and identify what variant is emerging," Ogwell said.
In this Sept 3, 2021 file photo, pupils line up at a COVID-19 test station as they enter their new secondary school for the first time at Wales High school, Sheffield, England. (RUI VIEIRA / AP)
Britain's vaccine advisers on Thursday said that an anticipated autumn COVID-19 booster campaign would be aimed at people aged over 65, care home residents, frontline health and social care workers and all adults in a clinical risk group.
Britain is offering a spring booster to the over-75s, care home residents and immunosuppressed people, and ministers have spoken openly of plans for a further booster campaign in the autumn.
In interim advice, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation stopped short of recommending another shot for all adults, though said the advice would be reviewed and updated.
"The JCVI’s current view is that in autumn 2022, a COVID-19 vaccine should be offered to: Residents in a care home for older adults and staff; Frontline health and social care workers; All those 65 years of age and over; Adults aged 16 to 64 years who are in a clinical risk group," the UK Health Security Agency said in a statement.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, fiercely criticised for his handling of the early stages of the pandemic, lifted COVID-19 restrictions in England in February, crediting Britain's quick initial vaccine rollout and the rollout of boosters with breaking the link between cases and deaths.
The booster programme helped to ensure that a wave of the highly transmissible Omicron variant and record case numbers did not overwhelm the National Health Service.
"We welcome the interim advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation for an Autumn Covid booster program and will consider their final recommendations later this year," the health ministry said.
"We have asked the NHS in England to begin preparations to ensure they are ready to deploy COVID vaccines to those eligible."
Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou on Thursday raised concern about the spike in new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, a little over a month after the end of the health emergency.
"I am concerned," he told journalists from Punta del Este. "The minister of public health has made some non-pharmacological recommendations that must be followed."
Uruguay reported 5,549 new COVID-19 infections from May 8 to 14, almost double the 2,830 cases of the previous week, according to the latest weekly report from the Ministry of Public Health
He added that the health ministry has approved a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines for some age groups, and called on the population to maintain immunization.
The South American country has so far accumulated 908,078 COVID-19 cases and 7,215 deaths.
A ten year old child high fives Pharmacist Colleen Teevan after he received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for kids at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut on Nov 2, 2021. (JOSEPH PREZIOSO / AFP)
An advisory panel to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday voted to recommend COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for children ages 5 to 11, at least five months after completing their primary vaccination course.
Just over 29 percent of US children ages 5-11 are considered fully vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech shot
The advisers considered data from the CDC that showed protection from two doses starts to wane over time, and that boosters in older age groups improved efficacy against severe COVID-19 and hospitalizations.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky still needs to sign off on the committee's recommendation, but signaled at the meeting that she was likely to back the additional shots.
"We know immunity wanes over time, and we need to do all we can now to protect those most vulnerable," Dr. Walensky said. "It's important for us to anticipate where this pandemic is moving and deploy the tools we have where they will have the greatest impact."
Just over 29 percent of US children ages 5-11 are considered fully vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech shot. The vaccine is not yet authorized for children younger than 5.
The committee voted 11 to 1 to recommend the additional shots, with one doctor abstaining.
Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot was the lone committee member to vote against recommending the boosters, arguing that the focus should be on increasing the vaccination rate in the age group.
"Boosters are great once we've gotten everyone their first round," she said.
Meanwhile, the US current pandemic strategy is predicated on the assumption that people can move on from COVID-19, trusting that the healthcare system will be ready to hold the line. But that assumption is a fiction, said a report of The Atlantic.
Much of the system is still intolerably stressed, even in moments of apparent reprieve, said the report published on Wednesday.
Having apparently given up on curtailing the coronavirus, the federal administration is counting on vaccines and treatments decoupling infection from severe illness enough to prevent the healthcare system from becoming inundated again, said the report.
Enough healthcare workers, nurses, in particular, have quit their jobs that even when hospitals are not deluged, and the remaining workforce must care for an unreasonable number of patients over longer hours and more shifts, said the report.
Currently COVID-19 hospitalizations are climbing in 43 US states, especially in the Northeast. People in most of New York City are now advised to mask indoors again, after rising hospitalizations triggered the "high" alert level by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the report.