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Effectiveness of a Third Dose 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, 10 States, August 2021-January 2022

Estimates of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine effectiveness (VE) have declined in recent months (1,2) because of waning vaccine induced immunity over time,* possible increased immune evasion by SARS-CoV-2 variants (3), or a combination of these and other factors. CDC recommends that all persons aged ≥12 years receive a third dose (booster) of an mRNA vaccine ≥5 months after receipt of the second mRNA vaccine dose and that immunocompromised individuals receive a third primary dose.† A third dose of BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech) COVID-19 vaccine increases neutralizing antibody levels (4), and three recent studies from Israel have shown improved effectiveness of a third dose in preventing COVID-19 associated with infections with the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant (5-7). Yet, data are limited on the real-world effectiveness of third doses of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine in the United States, especially since the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.529 (Omicron) variant became predominant in mid-December 2021. The VISION Network§ examined VE by analyzing 222,772 encounters from 383 emergency departments (EDs) and urgent care (UC) clinics and 87,904 hospitalizations from 259 hospitals among adults aged ≥18 years across 10 states from August 26, 2021¶ to January 5, 2022. Analyses were stratified by the period before and after the Omicron variant became the predominant strain (>50% of sequenced viruses) at each study site. During the period of Delta predominance across study sites in the United States (August-mid-December 2021), VE against laboratory-confirmed COVID-19-associated ED and UC encounters was 86% 14-179 days after dose 2, 76% ≥180 days after dose 2, and 94% ≥14 days after dose 3. Estimates of VE for the same intervals after vaccination during Omicron variant predominance were 52%, 38%, and 82%, respectively. During the period of Delta variant predominance, VE against laboratory-confirmed COVID-19-associated hospitalizations was 90% 14-179 days after dose 2, 81% ≥180 days after dose 2, and 94% ≥14 days after dose 3. During Omicron variant predominance, VE estimates for the same intervals after vaccination were 81%, 57%, and 90%, respectively. The highest estimates of VE against COVID-19-associated ED and UC encounters or hospitalizations during both Delta- and Omicron-predominant periods were among adults who received a third dose of mRNA vaccine. All unvaccinated persons should get vaccinated as soon as possible. All adults who have received mRNA vaccines during their primary COVID-19 vaccination series should receive a third dose when eligible, and eligible persons should stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations.

Authors: Thompson, Mark G; Klein, Nicola P; Fireman, Bruce; Zerbo, Ousseny; Ong, Toan C; et al.

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2022 Jan 21;71(4):139-145. Epub 2022-01-21.

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