Contacts: Terry Kanakri
A recent study led by Kaiser Permanente found the Pfizer-BioNTech, BNT162b2, mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective against hospitalization for 6 months after full vaccination, even in the face of widespread transmission of the delta variant. The study was published in The Lancet. (An earlier draft of the study was previously posted on The Lancet preprint server.)
The study also shows that reductions in effectiveness against COVID-19 are likely primarily due to waning of effectiveness against infection, rather than the delta variant escaping vaccine protection.
The study combined robust epidemiologic data with variant-specific data from systematically sequenced positive COVID-19 swabs.
“This unique dataset allowed us to look at vaccine effectiveness over time, specifically for the delta variant versus other variants,” said Sara Y. Tartof, PhD, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation and lead author of the study. “When we looked at vaccine effectiveness against delta, we saw that protection against infection starts very high but declines over time. We see the same thing with other variants as well. If delta escaped protection, we would expect vaccine effectiveness to be very low at all time points, including the first month.”
In this study, researchers analyzed electronic health records from Kaiser Permanente members in Southern California between December 14, 2020, and August 8, 2021, to assess the Pfizer 2-dose COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness against infection and hospitalization. More than 3 million Kaiser Permanente members were included in the study. Among these members, 184,041 became infected with SARS-CoV-2 and 12,130 were hospitalized for COVID-19 during the study period.
“What this study suggests is that the introduction of the delta variant may not be the primary driver of recently reported declines in effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and the increasing rates of breakthrough infections among people who are fully vaccinated,” Dr. Tartof said.
In addition to Dr. Tartof, co-authors from the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation were Jeff M. Slezak, MS; Heidi Fischer, PhD; Vennis Hong, MPH; Omesh N. Ranasinghe, MP; and Oluwaseye A. Ogun, MD. Other co-authors include Bradley K. Ackerson, MD, of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group, Harbor City, Calif.; Timothy B. Frankland, MA, of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Integrated Health Care Research, Honolulu, Hawaii; and Joann M. Zamparo, MPH; Sharon Gray, MS; Srinivas R. Valluri, PhD; Kaije Pan, MS; Frederick J. Angulo, PhD; Luis Jodar, PhD; and John M. McLaughlin, PhD, of Pfizer Inc.
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve approximately 12.5 million members in 8 states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists, and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery, and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education, and the support of community health.