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Omicron Subvariant COVID-19 Boosters Remain Effective

— June 20, 2024

COVID-19 vaccines adapt to new subvariants, maintaining significant protection against the virus.

Few members of the general public have kept up with the ongoing development of new subvariant forms of the COVID-19 virus. After the initial waves, and after life started to return largely to normal, many people outside of the healthcare industry moved on and chose to focus on other things. COVID-19 has remained quite present in the lives of people who work in or around the healthcare industry, but for everyone else, the focus has shifted, and it will likely stay that way.

Of course, that shift in focus doesn’t mean that the virus has gone away. It is here to stay in one form or another, and those variations continue to morph and adapt. What does that mean for vaccination? As is the case with many types of vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines are always chasing a moving target in a sense, so the effectiveness of the treatment will vary from time to time as conditions change.

Considering the number of changes that have been going on with the variants of COVID-19, the vaccine remains impressively effective and a useful tool against severe illness. Specifically, the boosters that target the XBB.1.5 subvariants were able to deliver more than 50% rate of preventing infection and over 66% rate of keeping people out of the hospital at one month after vaccination.

Omicron Subvariant COVID-19 Boosters Remain Effective
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

What is being seen, however, is that those rates are dropping over time. When the data is extended out to 10 weeks, the infection prevention goes down to around 32%, and at 20 weeks, it’s around 20%. And, while the vaccine has proven to be extremely effective at preventing death, it’s hard to apply good data to those rates simply because of the very small number of deaths being reported across the board.

When evaluating the current vaccine in terms of its effectiveness against the newest emerging subvariant, JN.1, the results are not as encouraging. The vaccine has not been showing strong results against this variation of the disease, meaning new vaccine formulations will likely be needed to target this strain.

Moving forward, it appears that the strategy will be to deploy a new vaccine in the fall. This rhythm will allow for the spring variants of COVID-19 to be analyzed and a new vaccine to be developed in time for the fall. If enough people choose to get the vaccine each year, it should be able to play a notable role in preventing serious illness and keeping individuals out of the hospital. This ongoing interval of releasing new vaccines will largely mimic what is already being done with the flu vaccine.

It remains recommended to keep up with COVID-19 vaccines in order to have as much protection as possible against the virus and its various strains. Getting vaccinated does not prevent infection entirely, although it does help, and it has proven to offer significant protection against death. As time passes, more and more new vaccines will be developed to target the variants that become dominant within the population.


COVID-19 boosters targeting omicron subvariants remain effective, but wane over time

Booster Shots of COVID-19 Vaccines Effective Against Omicron Subvariant

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