According to new data presented to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committee, COVID-19 vaccines appear to provide robust protection against the worst that the disease has to offer. The data shows that hospitalization rates from April through to July had fallen even with the Delta variant spreading across the United States.
The data also shows that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots may slightly increase the risk of heart problems in younger men, but that the benefits of getting the vaccine massively outweigh these risks. While uncommon, the two heart conditions in question, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), and pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane that surrounds the heart), were mild and temporary among most sufferers.
To give you an idea of how rare it is, the data showed that for every million doses of the second shot given to 12- to 39-year-olds, there were 14 to 20 extra cases of these heart issues.
“The data suggest an association of myocarditis with mRNA vaccination in adolescents and young adults,” said Dr. Grace Lee, a pediatrician at Stanford and chair of the committee at the committee meeting. “Further data are being compiled to understand potential risk factors, optimal management strategies, and long-term outcomes.”
Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week reported that the risk of myocarditis was substantially higher after infection with the virus than after vaccination. However, the condition is still very rare.
It is also important to note that side effects, like the recorded heart issues, are not unprecedented when it comes to any medical intervention including prescribed medicines and vaccines. This is the reason that most medicines will provide you data on potential side effects, some mild, others more serious.
The data came from the, as of yet, unpublished data from Covid-Net which is a hospital surveillance system. This data clearly showed that all of the three vaccines currently authorized in the U.S. remain highly effective at preventing hospitalization of COVID-19 patients.
Effectiveness is still above 90% for those under the age of 75
The data, present to the committee by a C.D.C scientist, Dr. Sara Oliver, revealed that the vaccine had a 94% effectiveness for patients under the age of 75. For older patients, the effectiveness of the vaccine is still high, hovering around the 80% mark.
“Covid vaccines continue to maintain high protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death,” Dr. Oliver said to the committee.
Interestingly, however, the data also shows that vaccines appear to be becoming less effective at preventing infection completely or the development of mild symptoms. The reasons are not fully understood but are likely due to the waning effect of the vaccine over time and the rise of new variants, such as the Delta variant.
This finding adds weight to the ongoing debate on whether booster shots should be administered to already vaccinated citizens. Earlier in August, health officials had previously stated the potential need for adults who were vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines should get a third booster shot roughly eight months after their second dose.
This recommendation comes in light of data, like that recently published data set, that vaccines generally become less effective at protecting patients over time. However, vaccines will continue to protect patients from the worst effects of contracting COVID-19 on the whole.
However, it is important to note that not all experts in the field are in agreement on this issue. Many have criticized the plan for booster shots, saying, in effect, that the jury is still out on the need for them.
The committee will continue to review more data on the vaccines' safety, effectiveness, and ultimately, the need for additional shots at their next meeting this month.