How would you answer these 7 most popular clinical questions of 2022 on Pearls4Peers??

Peers,

www.Pearls4Peers.com just turned 7 with 2022 poised to become its best year ever in viewership  (>30,000 views so far)!  To mark this “momentous” occasion, I thought I would share with you, loyal viewers and subscribers, the 7 most viewed posts  of 2022 at its midway point.  Imagine rounding on the wards with your team and someone asks you one or more of these questions.  Take a crack at answering them and compare your answers with those of P4P (Ctrl+Click)! Have fun!

  1. What is the significance of teardrop cells(dacrocytes) on the peripheral smear of my patient with newly-discovered pancytopenia?
  2.  My elderly patient developed a flare-up of her gout few days after receiving covid-19 vaccine. Is there a connection between immunization and gout flare? 
  3. What is the clinical relevance of the “SPICE” organisms? 
  4. What does an “indeterminate” result in QuantiFERON Gold in-Tube Test for latent tuberculosis really mean? 
  5. What is the difference between “moderate” and “high complexity” medical decision making under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rule? 
  6. The urine culture of my female patient with urgency is growing Lactobacillus. Should I treat it?
  7. Why is serum AST levels generally higher than ALT in alcohol-induced liver injury?

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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 would you answer these 7 most popular clinical questions of 2022 on Pearls4Peers??

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?

Why is Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir) a promising new drug in our fight against Covid-19?

Based on the manufacturer’s (Pfizer’s) report, there are several reasons why Paxlovid may be a promising drug:1

  • It’s the first oral drug approved by the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)
  • It reduces risk of hospitalization or death by ~ 90% (when taken within 3-5 days of symptom onset) in patients at high risk of complications from Covid-19
  • It reduces viral load at day 5 of treatment by 10-fold compared to placebo, theoretically reducing infectivity at least in household settings 2
  • Serious adverse events were comparable to placebo; possible side effects include liver disease, diarrhea, altered sense of taste, hypertension and muscle aches
  • Nirmatrelvir component of Paxlovid has been found to be active against a variety of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern such as alpha, beta, delta as well as the newer omicron variant. This finding is in contrast to significantly reduced or loss of neutralizing activity of many commercially-available monoclonal antibody products against the omicron variant (eg, Casirivimab/Imdevimab-REGEN-COV, Bamlanivimab/Etesevimab, but not Sotrovimab)  designed to reduce serious Covid-19 complications in mild to moderate disease. 3-4

Few caveats to keep in mind when prescribing Paxlovid at this time:

  • It’s only approved for adults and children 12 years of age or older weighing at least 88 lbs (40kg) who test positive for SARS-CoV-2
  • Patients should be at high risk for progression to severe Covid-19 such as hospitalization or death
  • Per manufacturer (Pfizer), Paxlovid should not be taken if a patient is on certain medications due to the possibility of adverse drug interactions. The list includes colchicine, lovastatin, simvastatin, sildenafil for pulmonary arterial hypertension, some anti-epileptics (eg, carbamazepine, phenytoin), rifampin and St. John’s Wort.
  • There is no experience with treating pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers.
  • Pfizer recommends effective barrier contraception or refraining from sexual activity while taking Paxlovid

Paxlovid comes in a box of blister packs containing 5 days’ worth of medications (two 150 mg tablets of nirmatrelvir plus one 100 mg tablet of ritonavir to be taken 2x/day).  

Bonus Pearl: Another preliminary study of Paxlovid, this time including unvaccinated adults at low risk of hospitalization or death, has found a 70% reduction in hospitalization and no death compared to placebo with marginal statistical significance (P=0.051) but still with a 10-fold drop in viral load. 1

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References

  1. Pfizer announces additional phase 2/3 study results confirming robust efficacy of novel COVID-19 oral antiviral treatment candidate in reducing risk of hospitalization or death. https://www.pfizer.com/news/press-release/press-release-detail/pfizer-announces-additional-phase-23-study-results . Accessed Dec 23, 2021.
  2. Marc A, kerioui M, Blanquart F, et. al. Quantifying the relationship between SARS-CoV-2 viral load and infectiousness. eLife 2021;10:e69302. https://elifesciences.org/articles/69302#:~:text=Based%20on%20the%20current%20knowledge,24%25%20to%2058%25%20in%20household  
  3. Aggarwal A, Stell AO, Walker G, et al. SARS-CoV-2 Omicron:evasion of potent humoral responses and resistance to clinical immunotherapeutics relative to viral variants of concern. MedRxiv 2021. Doi:https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.12.14.21267772. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.12.14.21267772v1
  4. Planas D, Saunders N, Maes P, et al. Considerable escape of SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron to antibody neutralization. MedRxiv 2021. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.12.14.472630v1

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 is Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir) a promising new drug in our fight against Covid-19?

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?

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?

How effective are the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines in reducing the risk of hospitalization among adults 65 years of age or older?

The mRNA vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna seem very effective in not only reducing risk of symptomatic Covid-19 but also risk of hospitalization among adults 65 years of age or older.   A CDC study published on April 28, 2021, showed a vaccine efficacy of 94% among fully immunized and 64% among partially immunized adults ≥ 65 years of age  with approximately one-half of subjects  ≥75 years old.1

This study was carried out in 24 hospitals in 14 states in the U.S. during January 1, 2021-March 26, 2021, and involved 417 patients: 187 case-patients with Covid-19 and 230 controls with negative SARS-CoV-2 PCR test.  Among patients with Covid-19, 10% were partially immunized (vs 27% among controls) and 0.5% were fully immunized (vs. 8% among controls). 1

An Israeli study in a nationwide mass vaccination setting involving persons (28% ≥ 60 y) receiving Pfizer mRNA vaccine similarly found a vaccine efficacy of 74% for hospitalization for partially immunized and 87% for fully immunized persons.2

The high effectiveness of mRNA vaccines against more severe Covid-19 requiring hospitalization is great news, of course, as advanced age is by far the greatest risk factor for death from Covid-19, independent of underlying comorbidities.3   

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that prior to the availability of effective Covid-19 vaccination, adults over 65 years of age represented 80% of hospitalizations and had a 23-fold greater risk of death than those under 65?3

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References

  1. Tenforde MW, Olson SM, Self WH, et al. Effectiveness of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines against COVID-19 among hospitalized adults aged ≥65 years-United States, January-March 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7018e1.htm?s_cid=mm7018e1_w
  2. Dagan N, Barda N, Kepten E, et al. BNT162b2mRNA Covid-19 vaccine in a nationwide mass vaccination setting. N Engl J Med 2021;384:1412-1423. https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2101765
  3. Mueller AL, McNamara MS, Sinclair DA. Why does COVID-19 disproportionately affect older people. Aging (Albany NY) 2020;12:9959-9981. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7288963/

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 or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. 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 effective are the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines in reducing the risk of hospitalization among adults 65 years of age or older?

Are women at higher risk of Covid-19 vaccine-related adverse events?

Data to date shows a preponderance of Covid-19 vaccine-related adverse events (AEs) among women compared to men. This finding may be due to the generally more robust immunological response to infections and vaccines among women, increased reporting of AEs by women, genetic factors, microbiome differences as well as other factors.1-3

A CDC study involving mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) during the 1st month of vaccination roll out in the US, found that nearly 80% of adverse events were reported by women.  The great majority (>90%) of these AEs were not serious and included symptoms such as headache, dizziness and fatigue.1

A JAMA study involving individuals receiving one of the mRNA vaccines found that 94% (Pfizer) and 100% (Moderna) of anaphylaxis events occurred among women. Of note, the median age was ~40 years  with the majority of anaphylaxis events were reported after the first dose. 2

Higher incidence of AEs following Covid-19 vaccination is not surprising and may be explained biologically. Women typically have a more robust immune response to infections and vaccination, both at the level of innate and adaptive immunity with higher antibody responses.  

These findings may be in part due to hormones such as estrogen which is known to enhance differentiation of dendritic cells and proinflammatory cytokine production. Other proposed mechanisms include differences in microbiome between sexes and sex-based genetic influences on humoral immune profile with the X chromosome expressing 10 times more genes than the Y chromosome, including genes that influence immunity.3

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that anaphylactic reaction to the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines is extremely rare, occurring in only 2-5 cases/ million!2

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References

  1. Gee J, Marquez P, Su J, et al. First month of Covid-19 vaccine safety monitoring—United States, December 14, 2020—January 13, 2021. MMWR 2021;70:283-88. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7008e3.htm
  2. Shimabukuro TT, Cole M, Su JR. Reports of anaphylaxis after receipt of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines in the US—December 14, 2020-January 18, 2021. JAMA 20201;325:1101-1102. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2776557
  3. Fischinger S, Boudreau CM, Butler AL, et al. Sex differences in vaccine-induced humoral immunity. Semin Immunopath 2019;41:239-49. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30547182/

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 or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. 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!

Are women at higher risk of Covid-19 vaccine-related adverse events?