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Preliminary studies: survivors of COVID-19 may need only one shot of the vaccine

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Posted: Sunday, February 21, 2021. 11:38 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: In potentially good news for vaccine distribution, those who have survived COVID-19 and been vaccinated with the first dose of the many vaccines available appear to generate enough immune response that a second shot would not be necessary, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing several new research papers.

Previously infected persons, the various studies suggest, generated protection against COVID-19 more quickly and at dramatically higher levels after a first of the two-shot vaccine regimen compared with those who had never been infected and gotten vaccinated.

According to Viviana Simon, a professor of microbiology at New York’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and an author on one study: “Everyone should get vaccinated. Not everybody needs two shots… As long as we can’t deliver as much vaccine to everybody who wants it, I think it’s an important consideration.”

Other findings have indicated immune benefits from two-shot vaccine regimens to healthy members of the general population. For instance, Israeli researchers reported on Friday that a single shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 85 percent effective to prevent symptomatic COVID-19 up to 28 days after being administered. Pfizer doesn’t have data regarding the single-dose approach in Covid-19 survivors, a spokeswoman said. Moderna is aware of the preprint data but isn’t studying the issue, a spokesman said.

Giving just one dose means health officials could redeploy excess doses to more people and speed the reach of vaccinations, which vaccine experts and health authorities say is crucial as new forms of the virus increase transmission. Limited initial supply has contributed to the bumpy rollout of the vaccine and forced governments to favor high-risk individuals ahead of others.

Still, giving single shots to survivors could be costly and laborious because of the need to conduct testing to determine who has sufficient antibodies to forgo a second dose, vaccine experts say. It may also be tough to do without yet knowing what exact level of immune response is necessary for protection with current vaccines, known as an immune correlate of protection.

An FDA spokeswoman said there isn’t enough research to change vaccine administration. Still, the U.S. government has been open to adjusting dosing schedules, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month allowed second doses to be delayed by several weeks.

Only about 1.7 million Americans are being vaccinated daily, per federal figures. Since mid-December, more than 40 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose, and more than 17 million have been fully vaccinated. Pfizer and Moderna are scheduled to both complete initial 100-million-dose contracts next month. They have agreed to supply a combined 600 million doses by the end of July.

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