Research has found that the fourth dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 60 and above was effective in countering the virus and preventing severe illness.

For the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the team examined the medical records of 24,088 elderly patients staying at geriatric facilities who received the fourth dose and compared them with data from 19,687 people who only received three doses of the vaccine.

The team comprised researchers from Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Faculty of Health Sciences, Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba, and the Health Ministry’s geriatric department and Senior Shield Project.

They found that the fourth dose did not only reduce hospitalizations, it also saved lives. Specifically, around 34% gained protection from the viral infection, 64% to 67% did not progress to mild-to-moderate and severe illness leading to hospitalizations, while 72% got spared from death.

Despite learning that the fourth dose saved lives and reduced the need for hospitalizations in many cases, the protection afforded by the additional jab against the omicron variant was only “modest,” as per The Jerusalem Post.

According to the researchers, their findings would be relevant to the control of COVID-19 globally, particularly in long-term care facilities that house people with a higher risk of contracting the virus due to their age and comorbidities.

Israel was the first country to introduce the additional vaccine dose on top of the main series and initial booster. Initially, it was only intended for those in long-term care facilities, but the country’s Health Ministry eventually expanded the program to the general population 60 years and above.

“Elderly residents of long-term-care facilities are at high risk for severe and fatal COVID-19, with reduced immunity... and rapid decline in the immune response after two vaccine doses,” the team wrote.

Meanwhile, another study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases reported that COVID-19 vaccinations prevented around 19.8 million deaths during the first year of the vaccines’ rollout. The study used data collected from 185 countries and territories from Dec. 8, 2020, to Dec. 8, 2021.

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