Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Why to get your COVID bivalent booster

The COVID vaccines have saved millions of lives, and spared millions more a frightening hospital or intensive care admission.   Many people may not realize that recovery from a COVID hospitalization will often not be complete; tissue damage from COVID pneumonia may not heal completely, also the psychological effect of respiratory failure should not be underestimated.  Severe respiratory failure (a terrifying, suffocating experience) can often be a cause of PTSD that could affect you psychologically for years afterwards.   The vaccines have caused a huge reduction in such episodes of respiratory failure.  

COVID vaccinations are not perfect, and their protective effect does diminish gradually with time, though does not disappear entirely.  There are indeed rare cases of serious adverse effects, much lower than the rate of similar or worse adverse effects from COVID itself.  Also, vaccination reduces the probability of spreading to other people, thereby multiplying the beneficial effects in the whole community.  Vaccination followed by a mild case of COVID a few months later likely adds robust protection compared to vaccination or infection alone.   But the most effective and safe protection is to have an updated bivalent COVID booster, particularly if your last dose of vaccine and any episode of COVID infection has been more than 2-3 months before present.  Unfortunately, fewer people have had their boosters compared to previous vaccine doses, resulting in thousands of needless hospitalizations and deaths.  

Anti-vaccine misinformation is widespread, with testimonial accounts from people claiming that the vaccines are harmful.  It is important to know that a bivalent booster will lead to a large reduction in risk of severe disease, hospitalization, ICU admission, and death.    Evidence to support this is very, very robust, and unfortunately has not been emphasized strongly enough in current public health information campaigns.  

I encourage perusing the references below.  Aside from reading the studies and assessing the evidence for yourself, I encourage you to look up the authors and verify for yourself that these are incredibly experienced, well-educated researchers from major research centers, with no major biases or profit motives affecting their findings.    The research findings are corroborated and consistent with the  experience of ICU and infectious disease physicians, who on a daily basis in the past months have continued to see much more severe COVID disease and dangerously high hospital occupancy among those who are not up-to-date with their booster vaccinations.  

The references below are a preliminary list; I encourage you to continue checking out other references I've included in my previous COVID-related posts.  


Watson, O. J., Barnsley, G., Toor, J., Hogan, A. B., Winskill, P., & Ghani, A. C. (2022). Global impact of the first year of COVID-19 vaccination: A mathematical modelling study. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 22(9), 1293–1302.

CDC. COVID Data Tracker.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Arbel, R., Peretz, A., Sergienko, R., Friger, M., Beckenstein, T., Yaron, S., Hammerman, A., Bilenko, N., & Netzer, D. (2023). Effectiveness of the Bivalent mRNA Vaccine in Preventing Severe COVID-19 Outcomes: An Observational Cohort Study (SSRN Scholarly Paper No. 4314067).

Lin, D.-Y., Xu, Y., Gu, Y., Zeng, D., Wheeler, B., Young, H., Moore, Z., & Sunny, S. K. (2023). Effectiveness of Vaccination and Previous Infection Against Omicron Infection and Severe Outcomes in Children Under 12 Years of Age (p. 2023.01.18.23284739). medRxiv.

Andersson, N. W., Thiesson, E. M., Baum, U., Pihlström, N., Starrfelt, J., Faksová, K., Poukka, E., Meijerink, H., Ljung, R., & Hviid, A. (2023). Comparative effectiveness of the bivalent BA.4-5 and BA.1 mRNA-booster vaccines in the Nordic countries (p. 2023.01.19.23284764). medRxiv.

Davydow, D. S., Gifford, J. M., Desai, S. V., Needham, D. M., & Bienvenu, O. J. (2008). Posttraumatic stress disorder in general intensive care unit survivors: A systematic review. General Hospital Psychiatry, 30(5), 421–434.

Tenforde, M.W. et al. (2022). Early estimates of bivalent mRNA vaccine effectiveness in preventing COVID-19-associated emergency department or urgent care encounters and hospitalizations among immunocompetent adults. VISION Network, nine states, Sep-Nov 2022.  Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 71(5152), 1616-1624.