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Latest COVID shot offers 54% protection, CDC study finds – Newsday

The latest COVID-19 shot offers 54% increased protection for adults against becoming infected with the virus, according to a new study released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The data, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, shows the shot approved in September provides protection against both the strain of the virus that it was originally created to target and the more recent COVID lineages and mutations currently circulating nationwide. 

Dr. Bruce Hirsch, a Northwell Health infectious disease specialist, said the CDC findings are encouraging and should prompt more New Yorkers to receive the latest booster. To date, less than 10% of Long Islanders have received the shot, data shows.

But Hirsch acknowledges that the study has limitations, including a lack of data on how effective the booster is at preventing severe COVID illness, including hospitalization and death.

“The fact that it shows efficacy … is very reassuring and leads us to believe that it’s very likely effective in preventing the worst consequences of COVID,” he said.

The nationwide study looked at more than 9,200 people with COVID-like symptoms who were tested for the virus at CVS pharmacies or Walgreens locations between Sept. 21 and Jan. 14. Nearly 3,300 of those patients tested positive for the virus, researchers found.

Among those who received their booster seven to 59 days earlier, the vaccine was 58% effective in preventing symptomatic infection, the data shows. Meanwhile, the booster was 49% effective among those who received their shot 60 to 119 days earlier, the report found.

“Waning of effectiveness is expected with additional elapsed time since vaccination, especially against less severe disease,” the report states. “CDC will continue to monitor trends in [vaccine effectiveness].”

While most previous studies have measured the vaccine’s effectiveness against hospitalization and serious illness — the CDC said future reports will examine these outcomes — the latest findings are in line, or better, with past research showing its effectiveness rate against COVID infection.

The booster’s efficacy also exceeds the roughly 50% annual effectiveness rate of the influenza vaccine, health officials said.

This is the third updated shot authorized by the FDA, after the original vaccine series.

The FDA approved the latest shot for anyone 6 months or older on Sept. 12 but the percentage of Americans who have received the latest shot is lagging.

Nationwide, only 17% of Americans have received the booster while in New York State that figure is considerably lower at 11.6%, according to State Health Department data.

Long Island, meanwhile, is among the bottom 20% of all 62 counties statewide in terms of receiving the booster.

In Nassau County, 9.3% of residents have received the booster compared to 8.6% in Suffolk County, Health Department data shows.

Dr. Andrew Handel, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, said a combination of factors have caused those numbers to decline.

“People feel less enthusiastic about the vaccine in general,” said Handel, who contends the focus should be on vaccinating the most high-risk individuals, particularly as immunity wanes from previous doses. “And the current strain of the virus has become less likely to cause severe disease over time.”

The COVID positivity rate, both statewide and on Long Island, has trickled down in recent weeks after peaking for the season at the start of January, Health Department data shows.

Robert Brodsky

Robert Brodsky is a breaking news reporter who has worked at Newsday since 2011. He is a Queens College and American University alum.