Spike in COVID cases caused by human behavior not vaccine efficacy: Study

A New York State Health Department study found that a spike in COVID cases around January to August of this year was caused by New Yorkers returning to normalcy rather than the waning effectiveness of the vaccine.

This massive study concluded that when the season changed to summer so did the human behavior around COVID protocols. This, combined with the rapid spread of the Delta variant, is why vaccine efficacy dropped.

"We saw vaccine effectiveness declined a little bit during that time when the Delta variant was becoming mainstream," said Eli Rosenberg, NYSHD Deputy Director of Science.

That was the case for all three federally-authorized vaccines, but the decline in effectiveness was modest. While it did lead to an uptick in breakthrough cases, the shots still proved to be powerful in preventing COVID's worst outcomes.

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"You are severalfold more likely to be infected if you're unvaccinated and far more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19," said Rosenberg.

Researchers assessed nine million adult New Yorkers for potential changes in efficacy by age, product and month of vaccination. Among the findings, a dip in efficacy for preventing hospitalizations for people 65 and up. Pfizer declined from 95% to 89.2% while Moderna dropped from 97% to 94%.

"We have three million New Yorkers eligible," said Gov. Kathy Hochul. "We're ready to go."

The study comes as promising new medications could soon hit the market.

Drugmaker Merck is asking the FDA to grant emergency use authorization for it still that could be taken at home and antibiotic cocktail. The drug companies saying it could treat an infected patient or prevent someone exposed from developing COVID-19.

Neither of them is a replacement for a vaccine but it's a piece of ammunition in the arsenal that can hopefully move us out of the pandemic sooner rather than later.

Researchers studying those 65 and older who received Johnson & Johnson's vaccine did not see any decrease in efficacy against hospitalization over time but they did have a lower rate over the summer between 82 to 85 percent. 

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