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Bay Area doctor stresses need for new COVID-19 vaccine as experts set expectations for effectiveness rates

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — Breakthrough infections are becoming more common in the community, primarily due to COVID’s ability to mutate and change.

As a result, experts across the country are setting a lower expectation for the vaccine’s effectiveness.

As the Bay Area celebrated Independence Day, it’s safe to say that we all want to be a pandemic-free nation.

Thankfully, July 4 celebrations had little impact, but UCSF infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong says COVID-19 and omicron variants are still causing problems 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 care for those who are sick and that’s causing a lot of disruption.”

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

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

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

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

“I’m glad we’re pretty much keeping our hospitals intact and not having a flood of people inside hospitals despite so many infected people,” Dr Chin-Hong said. “In the pre-vaccination days, I can guarantee you we would really be behind the 8 ball.”

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

This highlights the importance of a second booster for people over 50 according to Dr Chin-Hong, as well as the need for an updated vaccine.

“It’s a never-ending cycle and I think people are rightly fed up,” Dr Chin-Hong said. “We need to address this issue with an updated vaccine that not only treats serious illnesses, but can also hopefully prevent infection even further.”

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

He says funding for Vaccine 2.0 is on hold in Congress, but still hopes it will be available in the fall.

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