A new illustration of inequality in access to vaccination? The new vaccine, adapted from the Omicron variant, has been given more frequently as a booster to the wealthiest people in recent weeks than the original vaccine, according to a report from the Epi-Phare group released Thursday. However, these new so-called “bivalent” products are believed to be as effective, and possibly more effective, than the first generation drugs.
In particular, people vaccinated with the bivalent were more likely to belong to the wealthiest socioeconomic group than those who received an additional dose of the original vaccine: 23% versus 17%. Conversely, only 16% of them were in the least privileged category compared to 20% of those who were vaccinated with a product that had been in use for nearly two years.
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“These people are better informed, so they knew more about the availability of new vaccines. And when they had a choice, they preferred bivalent,” epidemiologist Mahmoud Zureik, director of Epi-Phare, explains to the Parisian.
Autumn revaccination began on October 3rd. People aged at least 60 and all those at risk for serious or highly at-risk forms (adults with comorbidities, pregnant women, caregivers, etc.) are encouraged to re-apply this fall as a priority.
A total of 1.4 million people received revaccinations between October 3 and November 13. The vast majority of them received a bivalent vaccine: either Pfizer/BioNTech adapted to Omicron BA.4/5 or Moderna adapted to Omicron BA.1. More than 200,000 of them received the original Pfizer vaccine, which is still in use until pharmacies and doctor’s offices are stocked with new products.
“Low” vaccination coverage
Another notable difference in profile has to do with age. Among people over 75 years of age, new vaccines adapted to Omicron were used more often than the original ones (36% and 40% vs. 31%). This could be due to several reasons: nursing homes were more easily supplied with bivalent vaccines than pharmacies and medical practices, products that were considered the most effective were used first among the oldest and therefore most vulnerable people, etc.
Individuals who received a booster dose of the Omicron-adapted vaccine were also more likely to suffer from certain comorbidities, such as cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. Finally, bivalent vaccines are clearly preferred over original vaccines in some regions such as Brittany. This could be explained, in part, by more or less rapid deliveries.
As a result, “the level of revaccination [depuis le 3 octobre] remains low compared to expected coverage,” the authors of the report note. Only about 15% of people over 60 received an extra dose this fall, compared to 70% in England. Health Minister François Braun has also been publicly annoyed on several occasions.