How is Monkeypox different than Covid-19?

Just like Covid-19, Monkeypox (MP) is caused by a virus (this time related to smallpox), but there are major differences between these 2 diseases. 1-11

First, in contrast to Covid-19 which can easily be transmitted by casual contact through air, MP is primarily transmitted by close skin-to-skin contact (or possibly through contaminated clothing/bed linens) and sexual contact,  with great majority of current cases occurring among men who have sex with men (MSM); airborne transmission does not appear to be an important source of spread. 2

Although there is an overlap, the incubation period of MP tends to be longer (3-17 days) than that of Covid-19 which can be as few as 2 days.  Common to both diseases are flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches and headache, but MP is characterized by a rash that may be located on or near the genitals or anus or other areas, including hands, feet, chest face or mouth. 4

The rash (Figure) can look like pimples or blisters initially and may be painful or itchy as well. MP rash can either precede or follow flu-like symptoms after 1-4 days, or be the sole manifestation of the disease. Lymph node swelling or eye involvement (advise infected patients not to touch their eyes) may occur.  Although respiratory symptoms such as sore throat, nasal congestion and cough may occur with both diseases, shortness of breath would be unusual in MP.  A person with MP is considered contagious from onset of illness until the rash scabs over completely, which usually takes 2-4 weeks. 4,5,7,8

In contrast to Covid-19, currently there are no specific proven effective therapy against MP. However, several therapeutic agents with known activity against smallpox may be considered for those particularly at high risk of complications (eg, immunosuppressed patients, those with severe disease, exfoliative skin conditions [eg, eczema, psoriasis, Darier disease] children <8 years of age, pregnant or breast feeding patients, those with complications {eg, bacterial skin infection, pneumonia, gastroenteritis) or concurrent comorbidities.  These include an antiviral drug, Tecovirimat (TPOXX, ST-246) which can be obtained under an expanded-access protocol through the CDC in the U.S. (https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/clinicians/obtaining-tecovirimat.html. opens in new tab) — and Vaccinia Immune Globulin Intravenous (VIGIV) also through the CDC. 3,10

There are some “good news” related to MP when compared to Covid-19. First, in contrast Covid-19, hospitalization or death from MP due to the current circulating West African strain of the virus are extremely uncommon to rare.   In fact, of more than 12,000 cases of MP in 68 countries during the first few weeks of the epidemic, only 3 deaths have been reported, none in the U.S. thus far. 2

Second, in contrast to Covid-19, a person with MP is not considered infectious before onset of symptoms. So from a public health standpoint, it may be easier to control the spread of MP in the population following identification of a case. 9

Third, vaccination of contacts with one of the 2 available vaccinia/smallpox vaccines following significant exposure to MP may prevent disease altogether or render the disease milder. Vaccines should be administered within 4 days of exposure and no longer than 14 days after.  The generally preferred vaccine against MP is a modified vaccinia virus Ankara vaccine (MVA; JYNNEOS in the U.S., Imvanex in the European Union, and Imamune in Canada) which is live but non-replicative and is associated with fewer adverse events and contraindications than the alternative, ACAM2000, a live smallpox vaccine. 3

Last, in contrast to lack of pre-existing immunity to Covid-19 in virtually everyone  when the pandemic hit over 2 years ago, a large proportion of the population who received smallpox vaccine as part childhood vaccination (ending in 1972 in the U.S.) may have at least partial immunity against MP, resulting in either no or milder disease.6,11  

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that despite its name, monkeys are not a natural host of Monkeypox, with the causative virus having been isolated from a wild monkey in Africa only once? Instead, the virus first got its name after it was identified in a colony of Asian monkeys in a laboratory in Denmark in 1958. Squirrels, rats and shrew species serve as its natural host.1

Figure: Monkeypox rash (Courtesy CDC). 

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References

  1. Cohen J. Monkeypox is a new global threat. African scientists know what the world is up against. Science. June 1 2022. Monkeypox is a new global threat. African scientists know what the world is up against | Science | AAAS
  2. Osterholm MT. Gellin B. Confronting 21st-century monkeypox. Science 2022;377:349. Confronting 21st-century monkeypox | Science
  3. Medical countermeasures available for the treatment of monkeypox. Treatment Information for Healthcare Professionals | Monkeypox | Poxvirus | CDC. Accessed August 2, 2022.
  4. Key characteristics for identifying monkeypox. Clinical Recognition | Monkeypox | Poxvirus | CDC. Accessed August 6, 2022
  5. Monkeypox signs and symptoms. Signs and Symptoms | Monkeypox | Poxvirus | CDC. Accessed August 6, 2022.
  6. Karem KL, Reynold M, Hughes C, et al. Monkeypox-induced immunity and failure of childhood smallpox vaccine to provide complete protection. Clin Vaccine Immunol 2007;14:1318-27. Monkeypox-induced immunity and failure of childhood smallpox vaccination to provide complete protection – PubMed (nih.gov)
  7. Monkeypox: Key facts. Monkeypox (who.int). Accessed August 6, 2022.
  8. Clinical presentations of Covid-19. Clinical Presentation | Clinical Care Considerations | CDC. Accessed August 6, 2022.
  9. How monkeypox spreads. How it Spreads | Monkeypox | Poxvirus | CDC. Accessed August 6, 2022.
  10. Sherwat A, Brooks JT, Birnkrant D, et al. Tecovirimat and the treatment of monkeypox—past, present, and future. N Engl J Med 2020. August 3, 2022. Tecovirimat and the Treatment of Monkeypox — Past, Present, and Future Considerations | NEJM
  11. Mandavilli A. Who is protected against monkeypox. NY Times. May 26, 2022. Who Is Protected Against Monkeypox? – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

How is Monkeypox different than Covid-19?

Why do some patients with Covid-19 develop a rebound after completing a course of Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir) and how common is it?

Covid-19 rebound, characterized by the recurrence of Covid-19 symptom or a new positive viral test after having tested negative, is a poorly understood phenomenon that can occur after completion of therapy with Paxlovid, Molnupiravir (another antiviral Covid-19 drug) and even in patients with acute Covid-19 who never received any specific antiviral therapy. 1-6

Based on very limited number of studies, it appears that rebound is not caused by emergence of drug resistance or absence of neutralizing immunity, rather resumption of SARS-CoV-2 replication following completion of therapy, triggering a secondary immune-mediated response that’s associated with clinical symptoms.2,3

Recent studies suggest that rebound following Paxlovid treatment may not be as common as one may think.  In a cohort of 483 high-risk patients treated with Paxlovid for Covid-19, 0.8% experienced rebound of symptoms within 30 days of diagnosis, which were generally mild at a median of 9 days after treatment, all resolving without additional antiviral therapy.3  In this study, the median age was 63 years and 93% were fully vaccinated; there were no hospitalization related to rebound or deaths. In another study (pre-print) involving over 11,000 patients treated with Paxlovid, rebound symptoms occurred in 2.3% and 5.9% of patients  7 and 30 days following therapy, respectively, with similar rates reported in patients treated with Molnupiravir.4

Interestingly, a preprint article involving 568 untreated patients with mild-moderate Covid-19 found that 27% had symptom rebound after initial improvement with 12% having viral rebound based on nasal swabs with ≥0.5 log viral RNA copies/ml. 5 So antiviral therapy for Covid-19 is not a prerequisite for rebound symptoms.

Although some have suggested that insufficient drug exposure either due to individual pharmacokinetics or insufficient duration may be the cause of rebound in treated patients,2   there is currently no evidence that additional treatment for Covid-19 is needed in these patients.6

Despite reports of rebound, Paxlovid should still be considered in selected patients with mild-moderate Covid-19 at high risk of complications to minimize the risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19. 

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that, according to CDC, Covid-19 rebound often occurs between 2-8 days following initial recovery? 1

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References

  1. Covid-19 rebound after paxlovid treatment. May 24, 2022. COVID-19 Rebound After Paxlovid Treatment (cdc.gov)
  2. Carlin AF, Clark AE, Chaillon A, et al. Virologic and immunologic characterization of Coronavirus Disease 2019 recrudescence after nirmatrelvir/ritonavir treatment. Clin Infec Dis 2022 (June 20). Virologic and Immunologic Characterization of Coronavirus Disease 2019 Recrudescence After Nirmatrelvir/Ritonavir Treatment | Clinical Infectious Diseases | Oxford Academic (oup.com)
  3. Ranaganath N, O’Horo JC, Challner DW, et al. Rebound phenomenon after nirmatrelvir/ritonavir treatment of Coronavirus Disease-2019 in high-risk persons. Clin Infect Dis 2022 (June 14). https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciac481 Rebound Phenomenon after Nirmatrelvir/Ritonavir Treatment of Coronavirus Disease-2019 in High-Risk Persons | Clinical Infectious Diseases | Oxford Academic (oup.com)
  4. Wang L, Berger NA, David PB, et al. Covid-19 rebound after Paxlovid and Molnupiravir during January-June 2022. MedRxiv 2022. COVID-19 rebound after Paxlovid and Molnupiravir during January-June 2022 | medRxiv
  5. Deo R, Choudhary MC, Moser C, et al. Viral and symptom rebound in untreated Covid-19 infection. Medrxiv 2022. Viral and Symptom Rebound in Untreated COVID-19 Infection (medrxiv.org)
  6. Covid-19 rebound after Paxlovid treatment. May 24, 2022. HAN Archive – 00467 | Health Alert Network (HAN) (cdc.gov)

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

 

 

Why do some patients with Covid-19 develop a rebound after completing a course of Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir) and how common is it?

What’s the latest on second Covid vaccine boosters and should I recommend them to my adult patients?

On March 29, 2022, the CDC and the FDA approved second booster shots of Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines for everyone 50 years of age or older as well as people 12 years of age or older with moderate to severe immune deficiencies to be given at least 4 months following the first booster.1-3  This means a 4th dose of an mRNA vaccine for many adults and a 5th dose for those with moderate to severe immune deficiencies. 

Admittedly, these recommendations are made in the context of many uncertainties, including when the next Covid surge will arrive, what will be the predominant variant, and how will our immunity hold up if a surge occurs. 

Nevertheless, in discussing the merits of a 2nd booster, I would emphasize several “talking points”:

  • Covid hasn’t gone away with new cases still diagnosed daily, some still  requiring hospitalization, albeit at lower frequency than recent past. 
  • Our immunity against Covid wanes in the absence of boosters or natural infection.
  • SARS-CoV-2 has been unpredictable in its surges, as well as emergence of new variants with frequent changes in its virulence and ease of transmission. This means we don’t know when the next surge will hit us (summer, fall or later) and how the predominant variant will behave.
  • But let’s not get too hung up on surges! The fact is that as long as Covid is circulating around, maintaining a robust immunity against infection is the best way to avoid getting infected and the best way to do this is through boosters!
  • As more people go around without masks, the risk of unprotected exposure to SARS-CoV-2 is also likely to increase, particularly in indoor public gatherings.  Boosters may allow us the freedom to go maskless more often!
  • The risk of Long Covid even following mild infection is still real even between surges. This means even if we don’t get very sick from Covid, we are placing ourselves at risk of Long Covid. Remember, no Covid, no Long Covid!
  • Irrespective of whether it’s mild or even asymptomatic, Covid infection  can cause significant disruption in our lives, whether it be isolation at home, not being allowed to return to work or just the anxiety of having it or having passed it to others. This means that, at least currently, it’s premature to consider this virus as “just another respiratory virus.”  It’s impact on our everyday lives is still a lot different than typical respiratory viruses. 
  • mRNA vaccine boosters have been proven to be as safe as primary series. 
  • Last, but not the least, a preprint Israeli study involving volunteers 60 to 100 years old found a 78% reduction in mortality from Covid following a 2nd booster dose of Pfizer mRNA vaccine compared to those who only had 1 booster.This study has several limitations including self-selected volunteers who may already be at lower risk of Covid mortality due to their healthier lifestyle. Nevertheless, the data is very encouraging!

Ultimately, the decision to get a second booster, particularly during non-surge periods, will depend a lot on not only available facts but the individual’s threshold for acceptable risk of even mild disease, concern over transmission to others and more recently the cost of the vaccine, among other factors.  

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that each year there are plenty of uncertainties around which influenza A or B subtypes will be the predominant seasonal strain or what month they may surge but these questions never keep us from recommending the annual flu vaccine to the public as a means of reducing influenza cases and saving lives?   

 

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References

  1. D.A. Allows Second Covid Boosters for Everyone 50 and Older – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
  2. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Second Booster Dose of Two COVID-19 Vaccines for Older and Immunocompromised Individuals | FDA
  3. CDC Recommends Additional Boosters for Certain Individuals | CDC Online Newsroom | CDC
  4. Arbel R, Sergienko R, Friger M, et al. Second booster vaccine and Covid-19 mortality in adults 60-100 years old. Preprint, posted March 24, 2022. 24514bba-2c9d-4add-9d8f-321f610ed199.pdf (researchsquare.com)

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

 

What’s the latest on second Covid vaccine boosters and should I recommend them to my adult patients?

Should healthy adults receive a Covid vaccine booster shot and why?

A booster shot of Covid vaccine (eg, mRNA, Pfizer or Moderna) is now recommended by the CDC even for healthy adults as follows:1

  • If you received Pfizer vaccine as your primary series, are ≥12 years old and at least 5 months after your 2nd dose
  • If you received Moderna vaccine as your primary series, are ≥18 years old and at least 5 months after your 2nd dose
  • If you received J&J vaccine, are ≥18 years old and at least 2 months after your 1st dose

There are at least 3 reasons for receiving a Covid vaccine booster: 1

  • Waning immunity after primary vaccine series
  • Emergence of Omicron variant which seems to be less responsive to the existing immunity from the vaccine
  • Recent data from clinical trials showing that a booster shot increased the immune response in trial participants who completed an either Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccine primary series 6 months earlier or had J&J vaccine single dose 2 months earlier

Here is the data from CDC on the vaccine effectiveness against Covid based on epidemiologic data on emergency department (ED)/urgent care (UC) encounters or hospitalization during the recent Omicron-predominant period:2

 Vaccine effectiveness against ED/Urgent care encounters 

  • 2 doses of mRNA vaccine: 41% (69% <2 months vs 37% ≥5 months after last dose)
  • 3 doses of mRNA vaccine: 83% (87% < 2 months vs 66% 4 months vs 31% ≥5 months)

Vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization 

  • 2 doses of mRNA vaccine: 55% (71% < 2months vs 54% ≥5 months)
  • 3 doses of mRNA overall 88% (91% if < 2 months, 78% if ≥4 months)

So take full advantage of available Covid vaccines and maximize your chance of not getting Covid!

 

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that a recent CDC study found that people 18 years and older who received the same mRNA vaccine brand for all their vaccinations experienced fewer adverse reactions following the booster dose than they did after their second dose of mRNA vaccine, with 92% of reported reactions not considered serious?3

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References

  1. Covid-19 vaccine booster shots. Feb 2, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/booster-shot.html#:~:text=It%20depends.,after%20the%20J%26J%2FJanssen%20vaccine. Accessed Feb 24, 2022
  2. Waning 2-dose and 3-dose effectiveness of mRNA vaccines against Covid-19-associated emergency department and urgent care encounters and hospitalizations among adults during periods of delta and omicron variant predominance-VISION network, 110 states, August 2021-Jan 2022. Feb 18, 2022 https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/mm7107e2.htm#T1_down. Accessed Feb 24, 2022.
  3. New CDC studies: Covid-19 boosters remains safe, continue to offer high levels of protection against severe disease over time and during Omicron and delta waves. Feb 11, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2022/s0211-covid-19-boosters.html. Accessed Feb 24, 2022

 

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Should healthy adults receive a Covid vaccine booster shot and why?

My middle-age immunocompromised patient receiving immunosuppressants has had 3 doses of mRNA Covid vaccine and is now 4 months out from her 3rd dose.  Should she consider a fourth dose of Covid vaccine?

Yes! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S.,1 persons who are “moderately or severely immunocompromised” and have received 3 doses of an mRNA vaccine (either Pfizer [12+ years old) or Moderna (18+ years old]) should receive a 4th dose (“booster”) at least 3 months after the 3rd dose.  Similarly, those who initially received a J&J vaccine followed by one of the aforementioned mRNA vaccines and are at least 2 months from the 2nd dose should also receive a 3rd dose (booster. 

The following are considered moderately or severely immunocompromised conditions by CDC: 

  • Active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
  • Organ transplant with immunosuppressants on board
  • Stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or taking immunosuppressants
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (eg, DiGeorge or Wiskott-Aldrich syndromes)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other immunosuppressants

A published study2 of Covid-19-associated emergency department (ED) and urgent care (UC) encounters and hospitalization among adults during a period including Omicron variant predominance in 10 states found vaccine effectiveness for ED/UC visits dropping to 66% and for hospitalization to 78% by the 4th month after a 3rd dose (vs 87% and 91%, respectively during the 2 months after a 3rd dose).  This study did not distinguish immunocompromised from non-immunocompromised persons, however.  More data on the vaccine effectiveness in non-immunocompromised persons at high risk of Covid-19 related complications would be welcome.

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that of American adults who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, only about 30% have received an additional Covid vaccine dose beyond the primary series3 

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References

  1. Covid-19 vaccines for moderately or severely immunocompromised people (Updated Feb 17, 2022). Accessed Feb 21, 2022.  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/immuno.html?s_cid=10483:immunocompromised%20and%20covid%20vaccine:sem.ga:p:RG:GM:gen:PTN:FY21
  2. Waning 2-doe and 3-dose effectiveness of mRNA vaccines against Covid-10-associated emergency department and urgent care encounters and hospitalizations among adults during periods of delta and omicron variant predominance—Vision Network, 10 states, August 2021-January 2022. MMWR 2022; 71:255-63. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/mm7107e2.htm?s_cid=mm7107e2_w
  3. Hubler S, Harman A. As Cov id surges, experts say U.S. booster effort is falling behind. NY Times, December 18, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/18/us/omicron-booster-shots-americans.html

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

My middle-age immunocompromised patient receiving immunosuppressants has had 3 doses of mRNA Covid vaccine and is now 4 months out from her 3rd dose.  Should she consider a fourth dose of Covid vaccine?

Should patients with prior Covid receive Covid vaccine?

Yes, as recommended by the CDC.  The weight of the evidence to date suggests that previously infected individuals should receive Covid vaccine to minimize their risk of acquiring Covid again for many reasons, including the following:

First, depending on the population and the variant of SARS-CoV-2 (the agent of Covid) studied, a significant proportion of infected individuals— from 5% to >35% based on some studies— fail to produce antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.1 In 1 study, lack of antibody production was associated with younger age, lower viral load and a trend toward milder symptoms.1

Second, the body of the evidence for infection-induced immunity is much more limited with less consistent findings than that for vaccine-induced immunity.2

Third, vaccination against Covid has been shown to enhance the immune response and reduce the risk of infection even in those with prior Covid.2 In fact, 1 study reported that the risk of reinfection is more than twice among those who were previously infected but not vaccinated compared to those who got vaccinated after having Covid.3  In another study, the risk of infection in adults was more than 5 times higher in unvaccinated but previously infected individuals compared to the vaccinated person who had not had an infection previously.4

Some authors5 who oppose routine vaccination of individuals previously infected with Covid have invoked a recent CDC study6 which showed that when Delta was the predominant strain, persons with prior Covid had lower rates of infection than persons who were vaccinated alone.  However, this study was performed when booster doses of Covid vaccine were not yet available to most people and before Omicron became the predominant variant. 

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that following Covid infection, neutralizing antibodies  have a biphasic decline with an initial half-life of 2-3 months followed by a slower decline thereafter?2

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References

  1. Liu W, Russell RM, Bibollet-Ruche F, et al. Predictors of nonseroconversion after SARS-CoV-2 infection. Emerg Infect Dis 2021;27:2454-58. Predictors of Nonseroconversion after SARS-CoV-2 Infection – Volume 27, Number 9—September 2021 – Emerging Infectious Diseases journal – CDC
  2. Science brief: SARS-CoV-2 infection-induced and vaccine-induced immunity. October 29, 2021. Science Brief: SARS-CoV-2 Infection-induced and Vaccine-induced Immunity | CDC
  3. Cavanaugh AM, Spicer KB, et al. Reduced risk of reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 after Covid-9 vaccination-Kentucky, may-June 2021. MMWR 2021;70:1081-83. Reduced Risk of Reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 After COVID-19 Vaccination – Kentucky, May-June 2021 – PubMed (nih.gov)
  4. Laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 among adults hospitalized with Covid-19-like illness with infection-induced or mRNA vaccine-induced SARS-CoV-2 immunity—Nine states, January-September 2021. MMWR 2021;70:1539-44. Laboratory-Confirmed COVID-19 Among Adults Hospitalized with COVID-19–Like Illness with Infection-Induced or mRNA Vaccine-Induced SARS-CoV-2 Immunity — Nine States, January–September 2021 | MMWR (cdc.gov)
  5. Makary M. The high cost of disparaging natural immunity to Covid. Wall Street Journal. January 26, 2022. The High Cost of Disparaging Natural Immunity to Covid – WSJ
  6. Leon Tm, Drabawila V, Nelson L, et al. Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations by Covid-19 vaccination status and previous Covid-19 diagnosis-California and New York, May -November 2021.  MMWR 2022;71:125-31 COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations by COVID-19 Vaccination Status and Previous COVID-19 Diagnosis — California and New York, May–November 2021 (cdc.gov)

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Should patients with prior Covid receive Covid vaccine?

Who should get tested after a holiday indoor gathering with family members?

Whether you should get tested after holiday gatherings depends a lot on factors such as the level of transmission of Covid-19 within your region, the vaccination status of all the attendees, the likelihood of Covid-19 in any of the attendees, and your threshold for risk of either contracting or transmitting of Covid-19 to others, particularly immunocompromised persons. 

The following discussion assumes a scenario that is common to most indoor holiday gatherings: 1. You are getting together with people outside of your household; 2.  You or your family members don’t wear a face mask at all or certainly not all the time during the gathering; and 3. You find it impossible or don’t wish to socially distance from others during the get-together.1,2

First, let’s start with 2 situations where you should get tested following a holiday get-together, irrespective of your (or the attendees’) vaccination status: 1. if you have symptoms of Covid-19; and 2. If you were in close contact of an infected person (ie, commonly defined as within 6 feet of that person for a minimum of 15 minute during a 24-hour period).3

In the absence of known exposure or symptoms, you should consider getting tested if you are not fully immunized since you will be at higher risk of contracting and transmitting Covid-19 to others as long as there is still significant Covid-19 transmission in the region.  In contrast, if you and other attendees are fully immunized already, routine testing for Covid-19 after the gathering is hard to justify given the effectiveness of FDA-authorized Covid-19 vaccines and the costs and impracticalities associated with routine testing of millions of fully vaccinated persons.  

It goes without saying that holiday gatherings with family members outside of one’s immediate houseshold is not a zero-risk proposition for contracting or transmitting Covid-19 because people can have no symptoms and be infectious and vaccinated individuals can on occasion become infected.   Even the tests are not perfect. However, if you are concerned that you might have been exposed to Covid-19  and knowledge of a negative Covid-19 test (with its inherent limitations) gives you peace of mind, you should consider getting tested. The over-the-counter rapid Covid-19 tests may be particularly useful in assessing the likelihood of being contagious.4

For further recommendations on when you should consider getting tested for Covid-19 in general, I highly recommend an NIH-sponsored online calculator called “When to Test”.  This calculator is based on mathematical modelling that takes into account an individual’s vaccination status, transmission rates in the geographic area, and mitigation behaviors (eg, masks and social distancing).1

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that persons with Covid-19 are considered infectious 2 days before they develop symptoms or 2 days before the date of their positive test if they don’t have symptoms?5

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References:

  1. When to test offers free online tool to help individuals make informed Covid-19 testing decisions. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/when-test-offers-free-online-tool-help-individuals-make-informed-covid-19-testing-decisions. Accessed November 26, 2021.
  2. Covid-19 testing overview. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/testing.html. Accessed November 26, 2021.
  3. Covid-19. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/contact-tracing/contact-tracing-plan/appendix.html#contact. Accessed November 26, 2021.
  4. Schuit E, Venekamp RP, Pas SD, et al. Diagnostic accuracy of rapid antigen tests in asymptomatic and presymptomatic close contacts of individuals with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection: cross sectional study. BMJ 2021;374:n1676.  https://www.bmj.com/content/374/bmj.n1676
  5. Quarantine and isolation. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/quarantine-isolation.html#:~:text=Get%20tested%205%2D7%20days%20after%20their%20first%20exposure.,the%20person%20with%20COVID%2D19. Accessed November 26, 2021.

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

 

Who should get tested after a holiday indoor gathering with family members?

What’s the evidence that a third dose of mRNA Covid-19 vaccine reduces risk of Covid-19 disease?

The strongest evidence to date demonstrating the effectiveness of a third dose of mRNA Covid-19 vaccine comes from an observational study from Israel which reported 93% effectiveness for admission to hospital, 92% for severe disease and 81% for Covid-19 related deaths when compared to those who had received 2 doses of the vaccine (Pfizer, BNT162b2 mRNA) at least 5 months before.1

This was a large population-based study involving over a million people 16 years or older (one-half in each group) who were eligible for the third dose (median age 52 y); those living in long-term facilities, healthcare workers and those medically confined to their homes were excluded. Vaccine effectiveness was evaluated at least 7 days after receipt of the third dose.  Median follow-up period was 13 days for both groups.

Overall effectiveness of the third dose vs 2 vaccine doses was 93% (88-97) for admission to hospital, 92% (82-97) for severe disease and 81% for death (59-97). Effectiveness of the third dose was similar between males and females and between individuals 40-60 years and those at least 70 years of age; effectiveness could not be determined in the younger age group due to small number of adverse outcomes.

What makes this study stand out among the previous works2,3 is that it controlled for important possible confounders, including sociodemographic factors, clinical factors, and behavioral factors related to Covid-19.  Limitations include its observational nature and exclusion of certain at risk groups, such as nursing home residents and healthcare workers.

Given the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in many communities at this writing, the news that a booster shot of an mRNA vaccine provides further protection in preventing Covid-19 is very welcome!

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that in a study measuring the immune response after the third dose of an mRNA vaccine (Moderna) in those 60 years of age or older, the median antibody titer rose 50-fold!4

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References

  1. Barda N, Dagan N, Cohen C, et al. Effectiveness of a third dose of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 vaccine for preventing severe outcomes in Israel: an observational study. Lancet, published online October 29, 2021. https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736%2821%2902249-2
  2. Bar-On YM, Goldberg Y, Mandel M, et al. Protection of BNT162b2 vaccine.N Engl J Med 2021; published online Sept 15, https://doi.org/10.1056/nejmoa21114255.
  3. Patalon T, Gazit S, Pitzer VE, et al. Short term reduction in the odds of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2; a comparison between two doses and three doses of the BNT162b2 vaccine. medRxive 2021;published online Aug 31. https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.008.29.21262792 (preprint).
  4.  Eliakim-Raz N, Liebovici-Weisman Y, Stemmer A, et al. Antibody titers before and aftera third dose of SARS-CoV-2 BNT162b2 vaccine in adults ages ≥60 years. JAMA. Published online November 5, 2021. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.19885 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2786096

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

What’s the evidence that a third dose of mRNA Covid-19 vaccine reduces risk of Covid-19 disease?

Should patients previously immunized against Covid-19 receive selected monoclonal antibodies when diagnosed with a breakthrough infection?

Although published studies supporting monoclonal antibody therapy in mild to moderate Covid-19 preceded availability of Covid-19 vaccines and the emergence of new variants of concern,1,2 given the possibility of severe breakthrough Covid-19 in high risk vaccinated patients with suboptimal immunity and the retained activity of certain monoclonal antibody products (ie, casirivimab and imdevimab-Regeneron-Cov and sotrovimab) against common variants of SARS-CoV-2 , their use is recommended even in vaccinated individuals with mild to moderate Covid-19.3-5

In fact, the CDC states that “For people who have received one or more doses of Covid-19 vaccine and subsequently experience SARS-CoV-2 infection, prior receipt of a Covid-19 vaccine should not affect treatment decisions (including use of monoclonal antibodies, convalescent plasma, antiviral treatment, or corticosteroid administration) or timing of such treatment.”3

In its July 30, 2021 Emergency Authorization Use (EUA) letter regarding use of casirivimab and imdevimab – REGEN-COV), the FDA does not distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals for its indications,4 similar to those of guidelines posted by the Department of Health and Human Services and the NIH.5-6

When indicated, high risk vaccinated individuals with Covid-19 should be offered  an FDA approved (under EUA currently) monoclonal antibody product (such as  casirivimab and imdevimab antibody cocktail or sotrovimab) soon after diagnosis and certainly no later than 10 days.

Vaccinated individuals with mild to moderate Covid-19 not requiring hospitalization and for whom monoclonal antibody treatment may be indicated include older patients and those with risk factors for severe disease, such as obesity, pregnancy, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease (including COPD), immunocompromised state, serious heart conditions (eg, heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies), sickle cell disease and type 2 diabetes.7

Of note, casirivimab and imdevimab is indicated for adults (weighing at least 40 kg) and children 12 years or older and is administered by IV infusion or subcutaneously, if IV infusion is not feasible and would lead to delay in treatment.4

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that in phase III trials, casirivimab and imdevimab  antibody cocktail reduced hospitalization or death by 70% in non-hospitalized patients with Covid-19?2

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References

  1. Interim clinical considerations for use of Covid-19 vaccines currently authorized in the United States. 2021. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/info-by-product/clinical-considerations.html. Accessed August 22, 2021.
  2. March 23, 2021 https://www.roche.com/media/releases/med-cor-2021-03-23.htm
  3. Dougan M, Nirula A, Azizad M, et al. Bamlanivimab plus Etesevimab in mild or moderate Covid-19. N Engl J Med, July 14, 2021. https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2102685
  4. Letter, EUA REGEN-COV, July 30, 2021. https://www.fda.gov/media/145610/download
  5. Department of Health and Human Services. High risk Covid-19 outpatients may avoid hospitalization with monoclonal antibody treatment. July 16, 2021. https://combatcovid.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/documents/High-Risk-COVID-19-Outpatients-072021.pdf
  6. Anti-SARS Cov-2 monoclonal antibodies. Accessed August 22, 2021. https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/therapies/anti-sars-cov-2-antibody-products/anti-sars-cov-2-monoclonal-antibodies/
  7. Science brief: evidence used to update the list of underlying medical conditions that increase a person’s risk of severe illness from Covid-19. Accessed August 22, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/underlying-evidence-table.html

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Should patients previously immunized against Covid-19 receive selected monoclonal antibodies when diagnosed with a breakthrough infection?

What’s the evidence that immunocompromised patients need a 3rd booster mRNA Covid vaccine shot?

At this time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation for a booster shot of an mRNA vaccine in patients with moderate to severe immunocompromised state (1,2) is based primarily on the concern for waning immunity following the initial series—including a decline in neutralizing antibodies— in this patient population, and the finding that at least some immunocompromised patients may have a significant improvement in certain laboratory measurements of immunity following their booster shot. 

Although there are no randomized-controlled trials of the efficacy of the 3rd shot in protecting against Covid-19 in immunocompromised patients, the recent surge in the highly transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants in many parts of the world (including the U.S.)  as well as immunocompromised patient population accounting for nearly one-half of all breakthrough Covid-19 cases requiring hospitalization (1) make it urgent to adopt these recommendations. 

A randomized trial involving 120 solid organ transplant patients (median age 67 y) found higher neutralizing antibody levels and SARS CoV-2 specific T-cell counts after the mRNA-1273 (Moderna) vaccine booster dose compared to placebo (3).

In another study involving 101 solid organ transplant patients, of 59 subjects who were seronegative before the 3rd dose, 44% became seropositive 4 weeks after the 3rd vaccine dose ( BNT162b2-Pfizer vaccine administered 2 months after the second dose). Patients who did not have an antibody response were older, had higher degree of immunosuppression and had a lower estimated glomerular filtration rate than those with antibody response (4).

A “spectacular increase” in anti-spike antibodies with levels close to the general population has also been reported among hemodialysis patients receiving a third dose of Pfizer mRNA vaccine (5). 

Until further data from larger studies become available,  these studies support administration of a 3rd dose booster mRNA vaccine in moderate to severely immunosuppressed individuals.

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that although immunocompromised patients have significantly worse influenza outcome, the data on the impact of immunocompromised status on the outcome of Covid-19 is less clear with published evidence that both supports and refutes this association (6)?  

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References

  1. CDC. Data and clinical considerations for additional doses in immunocompromised people: ACIP Meeting, July 22, 2021. ACIP Data and Clinical Considerations for Additional Doses in Immunocompromised People (cdc.gov)
  2. CDC. Interim clinical considerations for use of Covid-19 vaccines currently authorized in the United States. August 13, 2021. Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines | CDC
  3. Hall VG, Ferreira VH, Ku T, et al. Randomized trial of a third dose of mRNA-1273 vaccine recipients. N Engl J Med 2021, Aug 11. Randomized Trial of a Third Dose of mRNA-1273 Vaccine in Transplant Recipients | NEJM
  4. Kamar N, Abravanel F, Marion O. Three doses of an mRNA Covid-19 vaccine in solid-organ transplant recipient. N Engl J Med 2021, Aug 12.Three Doses of an mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine in Solid-Organ Transplant Recipients | NEJM
  5. Frantzen L, Thibeaut S, Moussi-Frances J, et al. Covid-19 vaccination in haemodialysis patients: Good things come in threes… Neph Dial Transplant, 20 July 2023. COVID-19 Vaccination in Haemodialysis Patients: Good things come in threes… – PubMed (nih.gov)
  6. Parisi C. An opportunity to better understand the impact of coronavirus on immunocompromised patients. J Infect Dis 2021;224:372-3. Opportunity to Better Understand the Impact of Coronaviruses on Immunocompromised Patients | The Journal of Infectious Diseases | Oxford Academic (oup.com)

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

What’s the evidence that immunocompromised patients need a 3rd booster mRNA Covid vaccine shot?