The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are 66% effective against Delta variant

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The effectiveness against infection of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines dropped from 91 percent before the Delta variant became dominant to 66 percent afterwards, according to a large study of US health workers published Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been examining the real-world performance of the two vaccines since they were first authorized among healthcare personnel, first responders and other frontline workers.

Thousands of workers across six states were tested weekly and upon onset of COVID-19 symptoms, allowing researchers to estimate efficacy against symptomatic and asymptomatic infection.

By looking at the rate of infections among vaccinated and unvaccinated people and the amount of time they were tracked, vaccine effectiveness was estimated at 91 percent in the initial study period of December 14, 2020 to April 10, 2021.

But during weeks in the run-up to August 14, when the ultra-contagious Delta variant became dominant, effectiveness fell to 66 percent.

The report’s authors said there were a number of caveats, including that the protection from vaccines could be waning over time anyway, and the 66 percent estimate was based on a relatively short study period with few infections.

“Although these interim findings suggest a moderate reduction in the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in preventing infection, the sustained two thirds reduction in infection risk underscores the continued importance and benefits of COVID-19 vaccination,” they said.

A number of studies have now concluded vaccine efficacy has dropped against Delta, even though the precise level of that drop differs between papers.

Protection against severe disease appears more stable, exceeding 90 percent, according to a recent CDC study of patients in New York.

Another CDC study of Los Angeles patients released Tuesday that was carried out from May 1 to July 25 showed unvaccinated people were 29.2 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than the vaccinated – corresponding to efficacy of about 97 percent.

Delta became the dominant strain in the United States in early July.

According to a recent paper in the Journal of Virological Methods, the amount of virus found in the first tests of patients with the Delta variant was 1,000 times higher than patients in the first wave of the virus in 2020, greatly increasing its contagiousness.


During July 2021, 469 cases of COVID-19 associated with multiple summer events and large public gatherings in a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, were identified among Massachusetts residents; vaccination coverage among eligible Massachusetts residents was 69%. Approximately three quarters (346; 74%) of cases occurred in fully vaccinated persons (those who had completed a 2-dose course of mRNA vaccine [Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna] or had received a single dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson] vaccine ≥14 days before exposure).

Genomic sequencing of specimens from 133 patients identified the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in 119 (89%) and the Delta AY.3 sublineage in one (1%). Overall, 274 (79%) vaccinated patients with breakthrough infection were symptomatic. Among five COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized, four were fully vaccinated; no deaths were reported.

Real-time reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) cycle threshold (Ct) values in specimens from 127 vaccinated persons with breakthrough cases were similar to those from 84 persons who were unva

ccinated, not fully vaccinated, or whose vaccination status was unknown (median = 22.77 and 21.54, respectively). The Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is highly transmissible (1); vaccination is the most important strategy to prevent severe illness and death. On July 27, CDC recommended that all persons, including those who are fully vaccinated, should wear masks in indoor public settings in areas where COVID-19 transmission is high or substantial.*

Findings from this investigation suggest that even jurisdictions without substantial or high COVID-19 transmission might consider expanding prevention strategies, including masking in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status, given the potential risk of infection during attendance at large public gatherings that include travelers from many areas with differing levels of transmission.

During July 3–17, 2021, multiple summer events and large public gatherings were held in a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, that attracted thousands of tourists from across the United States. Beginning July 10, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA DPH) received reports of an increase in COVID-19 cases among persons who reside in or recently visited Barnstable County, including in fully vaccinated persons. Persons with COVID-19 reported attending densely packed indoor and outdoor events at venues that included bars, restaurants, guest houses, and rental homes.

On July 3, MA DPH had reported a 14-day average COVID-19 incidence of zero cases per 100,000 persons per day in residents of the town in Barnstable County; by July 17, the 14-day average incidence increased to 177 cases per 100,000 persons per day in residents of the town (2).

During July 10–26, using travel history data from the state COVID-19 surveillance system, MA DPH identified a cluster of cases among Massachusetts residents. Additional cases were identified by local health jurisdictions through case investigation. COVID-19 cases were matched with the state immunization registry.

A cluster-associated case was defined as receipt of a positive SARS-CoV-2 test (nucleic acid amplification or antigen) result ≤14 days after travel to or residence in the town in Barnstable County since July 3. COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough cases were those in fully vaccinated Massachusetts residents (those with documentation from the state immunization registry of completion of COVID-19 vaccination as recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices,† ≥14 days before exposure). Specimens were submitted for whole genome sequencing§ to either the Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory or the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

Ct values were obtained for 211 specimens tested using a noncommercial real-time RT-PCR panel for SARS-CoV-2 performed under Emergency Use Authorization at the Broad Institute Clinical Research Sequencing Platform. On July 15, MA DPH issued the first of two Epidemic Information Exchange notifications to identify additional cases among residents of U.S. jurisdictions outside Massachusetts associated with recent travel to the town in Barnstable County during July 2021. This activity was reviewed by CDC and was conducted consistent with applicable federal law and CDC policy.¶

By July 26, a total of 469 COVID-19 cases were identified among Massachusetts residents; dates of positive specimen collection ranged from July 6 through July 25 (Figure 1). Most cases occurred in males (85%); median age was 40 years (range = <1–76 years). Nearly one half (199; 42%) reported residence in the town in Barnstable County.

Overall, 346 (74%) persons with COVID-19 reported symptoms consistent with COVID-19.** Five were hospitalized; as of July 27, no deaths were reported. One hospitalized patient (age range = 50–59 years) was not vaccinated and had multiple underlying medical conditions.†† Four additional, fully vaccinated patients§§ aged 20–70 years were also hospitalized, two of whom had underlying medical conditions. Initial genomic sequencing of specimens from 133 patients identified the Delta variant in 119 (89%) cases and the Delta AY.3 sublineage in one (1%) case; genomic sequencing was not successful for 13 (10%) specimens.

Among the 469 cases in Massachusetts residents, 346 (74%) occurred in persons who were fully vaccinated; of these, 301 (87%) were male, with a median age of 42 years. Vaccine products received by persons experiencing breakthrough infections were Pfizer-BioNTech (159; 46%), Moderna (131; 38%), and Janssen (56; 16%); among fully vaccinated persons in the Massachusetts general population, 56% had received Pfizer-BioNTech, 38% had received Moderna, and 7% had received Janssen vaccine products.

Among persons with breakthrough infection, 274 (79%) reported signs or symptoms, with the most common being cough, headache, sore throat, myalgia, and fever. Among fully vaccinated symptomatic persons, the median interval from completion of ≥14 days after the final vaccine dose to symptom onset was 86 days (range = 6–178 days). Among persons with breakthrough infection, four (1.2%) were hospitalized, and no deaths were reported. Real-time RT-PCR Ct values in specimens from 127 fully vaccinated patients (median = 22.77) were similar to those among 84 patients who were unvaccinated, not fully vaccinated, or whose vaccination status was unknown (median = 21.54) (Figure 2).

Transmission mitigation measures included broadening testing recommendations for persons with travel or close contact with a cluster-associated case, irrespective of vaccination status; local recommendations for mask use in indoor settings, irrespective of vaccination status; deployment of state-funded mobile testing and vaccination units in the town in Barnstable County; and informational outreach to visitors and residents. In this tourism-focused community, the Community Tracing Collaborative¶¶ conducted outreach to hospitality workers, an international workforce requiring messaging in multiple languages.

The call from MA DPH for cases resulted in additional reports of cases among residents of 22 other states who had traveled to the town in Barnstable County during July 3–17, as well as reports of secondary transmission; further analyses are ongoing. As of July 3, estimated COVID-19 vaccination coverage among the eligible population in Massachusetts was 69% (3). Further investigations and characterization of breakthrough infections and vaccine effectiveness among this highly vaccinated population are ongoing.

reference link : https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7031e2.htm

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