It’s not the only hint that the updated boosters may broaden protection against the still mutating virus. Moderna recently announced early evidence that its updated booster induced BQ.1.1-neutralizing antibodies.
It’s too soon to know how much real-world protection such antibody boosts translate into, or how long it will last. Antibodies are only one type of immune defense, and they naturally wane with time.
The BA.5 variant was responsible for about 30% of new cases in the U.S. as of Nov. 12, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but two new variants have been crowding out the once-dominant strain in recent weeks. The BQ.1.1. variant now accounts for 24% of cases, up from 2% in early October and the close cousin BQ.1 accounts for 20% of cases.
The original COVID-19 vaccines have offered strong protection against severe disease and death no matter the variant.
That's a good reason to stay up-to-date on boosters, Dr. Kathryn Stephenson of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center said earlier this week, ahead of Pfizer's data.
"Any kind of boost really reduces your chances of getting very sick from COVID,” she said.
Updated boosters are available for anyone 5 or older, but only about 35 million Americans have gotten one so far, according to the CDC. Nearly 30% of seniors are up-to-date with the newest booster but only about 13% of all adults.
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