Despite criticism from scientists, SP government initiates booster dose for the elderly with 99% doses of CoronaVac | São Paulo

Scientists studying the pandemic criticized the state government’s option of not prioritizing Pfizer’s vaccine for the booster, as the federal government did, and highlighted studies that show a 10-fold higher response in the production of neutralizing antibodies with a booster from the manufacturer Pfizer, compared to a booster made with CoronaVac.

According to the state plan, this Monday began the vaccination with a booster dose for seniors over 90 years, a group estimated at 52,000 people. On this first day of the booster campaign, 12,607 additional doses were applied until 6 pm. Among the vaccinated, 99.2% took CoronaVac, 0.3% Astrazeneca and 0.1% Pfizer.

Experts claim that the CoronaVac has good results to prevent the severe form of the disease, What a should not be the first option for a booster dose..

Elderly person receives a dose of vaccine against Covid-19 in the city of Franca, interior of São Paulo, on March 10, 2021. — Photo: IGOR DO VALE/ESTADÃO CONTEÚDO

The São Paulo state government’s vaccination plan differs from that drawn up by the federal government. The Ministry of Health recommended the booster dose for people over 70 years of age and immunosuppressed, and determined that immunization should preferably be done with a dose of Pfizer.

The government of São Paulo did not stipulate the manufacturer of the dose to be used in the booster. Thus, the vaccine must be “whatever is available at the health center at the time”, according to the state plan.

Immune Response for the Elderly

Fiocruz researcher Júlio Croda considers that the decision of the state government not to use Pfizer as a first option for the elderly is wrong.

“I agree with the Ministry of Health regarding the use of Pfizer in the elderly and immunosuppressed. This population has a lower response in terms of neutralizing antibodies and we need a vaccine that can induce a greater response”, he said.

Croda was once a member of the group of scientists that advised the Doria administration on decisions about the pandemic. The Contingency Center was dissolved on the 16th, on the eve of the end of measures to restrict time and public in the state – a decision that was also criticized by experts.

Elderly over 85 years old receives vaccine against Covid-19 in Recife (PE) — Photo: GENIVAL PAPARAZZI/PHOTOPRESS/ESTADÃO CONTEÚDO

The researcher highlighted the study published in The Lancet that showed a 10-fold higher response in the production of neutralizing antibodies with a boost from the manufacturer Pfizer, in comparison with a reinforcement made with CoronaVac. The research, linked to the University of Hong Kong, was carried out with 93 health professionals who had previously received two doses of CoronaVac vaccine.

Although CoronaVac has already proven effective in reducing hospitalizations and deaths by Covid, the comparative study with the Pfizer vaccine points to a better result precisely in the elderly population, where it is more difficult to achieve a greater immune response.

For the director of the Brazilian Society of Immunizations (SBIm), infectologist Renato Kfouri, the data show that the most effective boost is made with messenger RNA vaccines, as is the case with the one developed by Pfizer.

“Lab and real world data show that, in this more vulnerable population, messenger RNA vaccines perform better – in the case here in Brazil, by Pfizer. It is a vaccine that stimulates the production of antibodies in a more rigorous manner in elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems,” said Kfouri.

During a press conference last Wednesday (1), the director of the Butantan Institute, Dimas Covas, claimed that the technical note from the Ministry of Health that defined Pfizer as a priority in the booster dose did not follow technical parameters.

“We are here dealing with technical and scientific issues, and these point out that the third dose with CoronaVac enormously increases the immune response. But, on the other hand, we have a position that is even more political by the Ministry of Health when it discredits this vaccine as a third dose,” he said.

Specialists summoned by the Doria administration stressed that the protection of all vaccines is reduced for people over 80 years of age.

“What was observed is that, over 80 years of age, you have a reduction in the immunoprotective factor regardless of which vaccine is used, that is, any immunizing agent, both inactivated immunizers, viral vector, messenger RNA vaccine. All vaccines have this profile,” said Sérgio Cimerman, an infectious disease specialist at the Emílio Ribas hospital.

Members of the state government of São Paulo, alongside Governor João Doria (PSDB), at a press conference at Palácio dos Bandeirantes this Wednesday (1) — Photo: Marina Pinhoni/G1 SP

However, doctors did not address the different studies on possible combinations for the booster dose. Questioned about the topic by journalists, the coordinator of the Committee against Covid-19 of SP, physician João Gabbardo, declared that there are advantages in applying reinforcement with any manufacturer.

“There are works, and the technical note from the Ministry of Health itself points to the positive aspect of people who were vaccinated with two doses of receiving the third dose of CoronaVac,” said Gabbardo.

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