Health Minister announces new booster jab, receives lukewarm response from expert and omits CDC concerns

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Feb 23, 2023 |

Health Minister Ayesha Verrall has announced details on the rollout of the new Pfizer Covid-19 bivalent vaccine.

The vaccine is being introduced for everyone over 30 as a booster dose, Verrall said.

From April 1, everyone 30 and over will be able to get a booster regardless of how many vaccines they have had.

In January, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a possible link between the new Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent COVID-19 vaccine and strokes in people aged 65 and older.

Pfizer’s bivalent shots are produced specifically to protect against two omicron variants, called BA4 and BA5.

The Government press release made no mention of this information.

Meanwhile, Associate Professor Helen Petousis-Harris, Vaccinologist, University of Auckland, who’s been an adviser to Pfizer, according to her statement of conflict, said “Procurement of a bivalent Covid-19 vaccine is a logical move at this stage of the pandemic but these vaccines are not game-changers.

“The bivalent Covid-19 vaccine includes the original variant that first appeared in Wuhan (the ancestral strain), as well as a more recent variant related to the Omicron family.

The idea is that it will provide superior protection over the original monovalent (single) vaccine that most people have already received by presenting additional SARS-CoV-2 diversity to the immune system.

“The bivalent booster vaccination does appear to have an edge over the single-valent version, but not an awful lot.

“It has shown benefit in reducing infections and hospitalisations, and has greatest impact in those at increased risk, including elderly people and those with a medical risk condition.”

“It is important to note that there is limited added protection of bivalent vaccination in preventing Omicron infection in people who have received primary vaccination and one or two monovalent booster vaccinations. Especially in persons with prior Omicron infection. It should be noted that studies on the effectiveness do not tend to compare the effectiveness of bivalent with monovalent boosters, they compare bivalent boosters with no booster. Key message – get a booster if you want to maximise protection.”

“When we talk about how effective these newer vaccine formulations are, we are often comparing people who have received at least three doses of vaccine and had an infection with those who have also received a bivalent booster rather than completely unvaccinated uninfected people, so things become relative. Key message, a booster, particularly a bivalent booster, can curb infection for a short time. It contributes most additional value to prevention of severe disease in older people and those with high risk conditions.”

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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