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Coronavirus update: Pfizer says third shot neutralizes Omicron variant

Six states have produced the most serious cases

COVID-19 booster vaccine concept
Photo (c) Teka77 - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 49,410,379 (49,314,743)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 791,705 (790,118)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 267,344,049 (266,815,426)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,275,993 (5,267,917)‌

Pfizer: Third shot neutralizes Omicron

Pfizer and BioNTech report that people who get a booster of their vaccine are likely protected against the Omicron variant. The companies say two doses of the vaccine provide less protection.

Researchers found that a third dose of the mRNA vaccine increased antibodies 25-fold when compared to only two doses. Company officials say it’s just another reason to get a booster.

“Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the Omicron strain, it’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine,” said Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s CEO. “Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Six states fueling the surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations

Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise across the U.S. but NBC News reports that six states account for more than half of the serious cases that require hospitalization. An analysis of federal government data shows Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois lead the nation in hospitalizations.

Twenty-four other states have reported increases in serious cases since early November. Hospitalizations rose from 45,000 a day to 58,000.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says even though the Omicron variant continues to be a cause of concern, nearly all of the serious COVID-19 cases reported in recent weeks have been caused by the Delta variant.

Infection plus vaccination yields better antibodies against variants

Here’s good news for people who have been vaccinated and had a “breakthrough” infection: Your antibodies may be particularly strong.

Researchers writing in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology say the combination of infection and vaccination appears to provide a stronger defense against future infections than either one alone. 

“It shows that antibody quality can improve over time, and not just quantity,” said immunologist and physician Otto Yang, M.D., of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Around the nation

  • Michigan: A top official of the Michigan State Medical Society is begging for outside help to treat the surging number of COVID-19 cases in the state. Dr. Paul Bozyk, section head for pulmonary and critical care medicine at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, says hospitalizations have pushed health care facilities to the brink.

  • Arizona: State Sen. Kelly Townsend has introduced a bill that requires pharmacists to fill prescriptions for ivermectin if a doctor writes one for a COVID-19 patient. Townsend says the measure is in response to many pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for the drug, which government health agencies have not approved for treatment of the coronavirus.

  • New Jersey: Gov. Phil Murphy has given no indication that he plans to follow neighboring New York City’s lead in issuing vaccination mandates to private businesses. But Murphy, who let his emergency powers declaration expire, is urging state residents to get vaccinated and wear masks in public.

  • Vermont: Gov. Phil Scott has announced an emergency regulation requiring health insurers to cover the costs of COVID-19 antigen at-home tests, commonly referred to as “rapid” tests. “Vermont has led the nation in testing, but we must continue to adapt and improve our strategies as we move forward,” Scott said.

  • Alaska: Travelers passing through Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport can pick up a free COVID-19 test, courtesy of the federal government. It’s part of a Biden administration pilot program to expand access to the over-the-counter, at-home tests.

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