Bay Area doctor stresses need for new COVID vaccine as experts set expectations for efficacy rate

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Tuesday, July 5, 2022
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Once touted as a way to stop COVID in its tracks, the omicron variants are evading the vaccines and case rates remain high across the Bay Area.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Breakthrough infections are becoming more commonplace in the community, mostly due to COVID's ability to mutate and change.

As a result, experts across the country are setting a lower expectation of vaccine efficacy.

As the Bay Area celebrated Independence Day, it's safe to say we all wish we were a nation independent from a pandemic.

Thankfully, there were little impacts to Fourth of July celebrations, but UCSF Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong says COVID-19 and the omicron variants are still causing issues within the community.

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"Infections in the community are very, very disruptive," Dr. Chin-Hong said. People are staying home from work, people are staying home from school, people are staying home to take care of those who are ill and that leads to a lot of disruptions."

A growing number of experts across the country, including Dr. Chin-Hong, say part of the reason for this disruption from cases is due to the efficacy of the vaccines.

Once touted as a way to stop COVID in its tracks, the omicron variants are evading the vaccines and case rates remain high across the Bay Area.

However, the CDC recently said vaccinated people are still around 40 times more likely to survive an infection compared to the unvaccinated.

Dr. Chin-Hong says vaccines mixed with boosters are even better in preventing severe illness and death.

"I'm thrilled that we're pretty much keeping our hospitals intact and not having a flood of people inside the hospitals despite so many people getting infected," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "In the old pre-vaccine days, I can guarantee you that we would be really behind the 8 ball."

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Dr. Chin-Hong says any booster is better than no booster, but troubling new data from the CDC suggests single-booster protection against hospitalizations drops from 90% to 66-78% by four to five months out.

That highlights the importance of a second booster for people over 50 according to Dr. Chin-Hong, and also the need for an updated vaccine.

"It's a never-ending cycle and I think people are getting tired of it, rightfully so," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "We need to address that with an updated vaccine that not only deals with severe disease but can also hopefully prevent infection even more."

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Dr. Chin-Hong says the production of the vaccine is in a race against time as the variants continue to mutate.

He says funding for the vaccine 2.0 is held up in congress, but still has hope it will be available in the Fall.

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