March 30, 2022 11:14 AM
Natural Immunity from Omicron Wave Likely to Begin Waning
(March 30, 2022) – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded eligibility for an additional booster dose for certain individuals who may be at higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19.
People 50 years of age and older and immunocompromised people ages 12 and older can now get an additional booster of any of the three approved COVID-19 vaccines four months after their prior booster dose to increase their protection further.
As the United States faces a more contagious and now dominant version of the omicron variant, BA.2, which accounts for more than half of new infections in the country, health experts are hopeful that the vaccine series, paired with an additional booster for at-risk people, could help to prevent a new surge as immunity begins waning.
“This expansion comes at a time when immunity from both infection and vaccination is likely waning throughout the country and the BA.2 variant has become dominant throughout the United States,” said Public Health Director Grace Franklin. “Public Health is proud to continue to offer COVID-19 vaccines alongside our partners are the local medical centers.
In August 2021, the CDC updated guidance noting that those who have recovered from COVID-19 can safely interact with others for three months with a low risk of being reinfected with COVID — suggesting that natural immunity to the virus typically lasts for at least ninety days for most individuals.
The CDC analyzed case data surrounding natural immunity from the delta surge in the fall to determine risks and hospitalization after COVID-19 vaccination and previous infection. The resulting data indicates that those most at risk are unvaccinated people without prior COVID-19 infection. This group is the most likely to be infected and, if at-risk for severe disease, is the most likely to die from complications due to infection.
While much is unknown about the extent of natural immunity after infection with the omicron variant, three months continues to be the accepted timeline for natural immunity to begin waning.
The omicron variant was first detected in San Miguel County just over three months ago, on December 20, 2021, as the surge of infections resulted in a new single day record with 166 new local cases on December 28. Since the detection, 1,382 local cases have been reported to Public Health accounting for more than half of total cases in the county since the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020.
While immunity from vaccination and immunity from prior infection have resulted in a decline in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths throughout the country, an “uptick” in coronavirus infections similar to the current increase in Europe is expected in the coming weeks due to the presence of more contagious variants including BA.2 and “Deltacron.”
“This small respite in the pandemic can be attributed to the highest level of community immunity that we have seen since the start of the pandemic response,” said Director Franklin. “We are on the edge of the next unknown as this newfound immunity from both vaccination and the omicron surge begins to wane and BA.2 becomes the dominant strain around the world. As we look cautiously forward, we continue to monitor trends and provide access to tests, masks, and treatments, to empower everybody to incorporate COVID prevention and treatment into their daily routines.”
Depending on specific risk categories, Franklin noted that some should consider wearing masks in crowded indoor spaces, testing frequently and, notably, those most at risk for severe illness or hospitalization including people 65 years and older, immunocompromised individuals, and those who remain unvaccinated.
The United States has consistently tracked just a few weeks behind the United Kingdom, where new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths due to COVID-19 are again on the rise. Officials in the U.K. attribute the increase to the fast-spreading BA.2 omicron subvariant, the widespread removal of COVID restrictions, and to waning immunity from vaccinations and infections. Recent wastewater samples have indicated the presence of the BA.2 omicron subvariant within San Miguel County.
“Public Health will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 throughout the county and is actively and intentionally preparing for the possibility of future increases in new COVID cases,” said Director Franklin. “We encourage our residents and visitors to prepare as well and stay up-to-date with their COVID vaccine.”
Public Health’s next COVID vaccine clinic will be held on Tuesday, April 12 at 333 W. Colorado Avenue, #315, Telluride, CO. Moderna vaccines will be administered from 2 to 4 pm while Pfizer doses will be administered for children from 2 to 2:30 and adults from 2:45 to 4 pm. Visit bit.ly/smcvaccine to schedule an appointment.