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Steve E. Bishop, M.D.

By: Steve E. Bishop, M.D. on November 16th, 2022

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COVID-19 Update 11/16: Bivalent Boosters, Hospitalizations, and More

COVID-19

In this COVID-19 update, Dr. Steven Bishop provides an update on a little bit of new data on the updated bivalent boosters, discusses hospitalizations during respiratory virus season, and more. Watch the video below or read on for our full recap. 

Bivalent Boosters

We don't have a ton of new information. Not a lot has changed in the last month and I think that's a good thing. To start off, where are we with these bivalent boosters?

To be honest, I think we're about where we were last month when we talked about this. Here are a couple of quick items.

Moderna has come out with a study showing that they saw an antibody boost after giving their bivalent booster, which is good. That means the vaccine does do its job in terms of increasing antibody levels.

What we still are missing, though, is good solid data on how the vaccines are actually working out in the real world in terms of trials showing us how it changes hospitalizations or mortality. Those studies are still in progress.

Pfizer also released another study and some more data recently. There was a small study they did on about 36 people who were older than 55.

They got the Omricon booster as a fourth dose, compared with 40 people from the same age group who got the original vaccine as their fourth dose, and in the people who got the newer dose, they did see a big boost in antibodies targeting the Omricon BA5 variant compared to the other vaccine.

But again, we're not seeing lots of information come out yet in terms of the antibody levels are up and that's a good thing. That means the vaccine is doing what it's intended to do in terms of the biochemical reaction.

But we don't know how it's performing in the real world, in terms of preventing hospitalizations and severe disease.

Hospitalizations Uptick from Respiratory Viruses

Now, along those same lines, there's been an uptick in covid-related hospitalizations, but there's been a big uptick in hospitalizations for respiratory viruses of all kinds recently. Not just covid, but a lot of flu and, in children, a lot of RSV as well.

A lot going on there. It is hard to kind of tease out, but you know, there's sort of this new baseline of Covid hospitalizations that's been roughly stable for some months at this point. 

Here is a blog post from Eric Topol, who is a well-regarded physician, where he talks through some data on things related to the latest variant and hospitalization numbers, etc.

We have a baseline of hospitalizations that's been stable since the summer, and I think that speaks to a lot of things.

  • A lot of people have had Covid at this point, so there is some immunity from that.
  • A lot of people have been vaccinated, so even though there are new variants that have come out, there hasn't been a big uptick in hospitalizations because so many people do have both vaccine-related and natural infection immunity at the same time.
  • I think, again, it just speaks to the fact that the virus has essentially become endemic at this point.

It's going to always be around. It's going to circulate. It's going to have variants that come and go over time and, just like the flu, it's going to change periodically and we'll have to keep monitoring it and keep responding to it.

But for the most part, it's become part of our normal respiratory virus flora, for lack of a better word. So it's here to stay, not going anywhere anytime soon.

Talk to Your Physician About Boosters

As always with the boosters, the bivalent boosters, it's a good time to talk to your doctor about that — whether you should get one and if you should, when you should get one.

It's also a good time to go and get your flu shot if you haven't done that yet. Again, lots of flu cases out there. The hospitals are packed. The ERs are packed. So if you can, do whatever you can to stay away from sick people, wash your hands, and do all the good things we all know work very well.

Get your flu shot. Talk to your doctor about Covid boosters. And try to minimize your risk of getting one of these respiratory viruses, especially over the next few months while we deal with all these surges that are going on.

There is a lot going into the hospitals being crowded. A lot of sick people. There are staffing problems still for a whole lot of reasons.

But the bottom line is to do what you can to stay healthy in general. Again, get vaccinated if appropriate. Get some sunshine. Wash your hands. Stay away from sick people. Eat well. Take care of yourself. Sleep. Exercise. All the stuff you know you need to do.

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