Omicron Covid boosters seem to work regardless of side effects

If you have already received your omicron-specific Covid booster, you may have experienced side effects. Maybe even ones that were more intense than your previous hit.

But there’s no need to worry: experts and new data indicate that new vaccines seem to work whether you experience moderate, mild or no side effects.

“Don’t focus too much on the side effects, because I really think the main goal here is to protect people. So focus on that benefit of new vaccines,” Dr. Yvonne Maldonadoprofessor of pediatric infectious diseases at Stanford University School of Medicine, Make It told CNBC.

The new boosters have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and the CDC before the end of clinical trials. But recently published data from Pfizer and BioNTech’s ongoing clinical trial provides first insight into the effectiveness of its new vaccines on humans, showing that the new boosters generated a strong immune response against omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.

About 11.5 million Americans have rolled up their sleeves to get the booster since they were first sent out in early September, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More Americans could follow: About a third of American adults say they already have one or plan to do so “as soon as possible”, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation released on September 30.

Here’s what you need to know about the protection offered by the new boosters and how side effects fit into the equation:

The new booster seems to protect you

The redesigned injections from Pfizer and Moderna are bivalent, meaning they are matched to the original strain of Covid and omicron BA.4 and BA.5. All Americans 5 years and over are eligible if they have completed their primary series.

Like previous Covid vaccines, the new boosters are designed to help you fight the virus by triggering an immune response in your body. When you get a vaccine, your immune system recognizes it as something foreign because it mimics a Covid infection without causing the “disease in its own right,” Maldonado says.

Your immune system responds by producing an arsenal of weapons – including antibodies, memory B cells and T cells – that work together to hunt down the “foreign object” and remember how to ward it off in the future, adds- she.

Pfizer says its clinical trials succeeded in inducing this immune response: one week after the injection, the participants had higher levels of antibodies against BA.4 and BA.5 in their blood than before the injection. The drugmaker didn’t say how high those antibody levels were, but said it plans to release data measuring antibody levels a month after the recall “in the coming weeks.”

Such data could better measure the comprehensive protection that Pfizer’s new booster can provide against omicron subvariants. Covid vaccines typically take two to three weeks to fully boost your immunity, which can help your body prevent an infection from occurring or prevent it from progressing to serious illness.

“We know the data is not complete, but it is also reassuring that after seven days you are already seeing an increase in antibodies,” Maldanado says. “The response is very consistent with what we’ve seen in the past with other vaccines.”

What does it mean if your side effects are more intense than others?

Side effects — in this case, the now familiar set of muscle aches, fatigue, headaches and more — are a natural part of our immune response to a vaccine, Maldonado says. Clinical trials of earlier versions of bivalent boosters targeting the BA.1 subvariant of omicron found that most participants experienced “mild” side effects, with much lower percentages reporting “moderate” or “moderate” side effects. “serious”.

In the real world, gravity appears to be “kind of a mixed bag,” says Maldonado: Some people may have a worse, similar, or milder experience compared to their previous vaccine doses. “There will be a risk of side effects. For most people you will feel something, but that doesn’t mean the vaccines aren’t safe or won’t protect you,” she adds.

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a UC San Francisco infectious disease professor, says he definitely experienced “undesirable side effects” after receiving his updated reminder. He notes that he got the flu shot at the same time, and while the side effects of the two shots aren’t new, he suggests they may have “confused” each other to cause him a worse experience. intense.

Some studies show that the risks of experiencing side effects after receiving both injections at the same time are similar or slightly higher than when receiving a Covid vaccine alone. So there really is no concrete explanation for when your side effects from the new booster are more or less severe than others.

But you shouldn’t worry, points out Dr. Helene Chu, assistant professor of infectious diseases at the University of Washington: Your side effects don’t correlate with how much protection a Covid vaccine gives you. Having mild or moderate side effects doesn’t mean you mount a stronger immune response than people without side effects, she says.

“You’re still going to have a nice boost in your antibody levels, you’re still very protected anyway,” Chu says.

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