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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The new coronavirus vaccine data released yesterday by the CDC confirms what other recent research has been saying: The coronavirus vaccines' effectiveness against infection has decreased over time.

Between the lines: There's little to no data that the vaccines' effectiveness against hospitalization will eventually follow suit.

Driving the news: The CDC released three new studies focusing on the vaccines' effectiveness, particularly in light of the Delta variant.

  • One looked at Pfizer and Moderna's effectiveness against infections among nursing home residents over time, and found that it dropped from 75% pre-Delta to 53% when Delta became dominant. It didn't differentiate between asymptomatic, symptomatic and severe infections.
  • Another used data from 21 hospitals to estimate the mRNA vaccines' effectiveness against hospitalization over time, and found there was no significant change in effectiveness from mid-March to mid-July.
  • The third, using New York state data, found that all three vaccines' effectiveness against infection dropped from 92% in early May to 80% at the end of July, but the effectiveness against hospitalization remained relatively stable.

Reality check: This is all good news for most vaccinated people — your vaccines will keep you alive and out of the hospital.

  • It's not so great for some vulnerable populations, particularly nursing home residents, who may be less protected than they'd thought.
  • "Additional evaluations are needed to understand whether protection against severe disease in nursing home residents is also declining over time," the nursing home study warns.
  • Residents' risk level is compounded by the high rate of unvaccinated nursing home employees.

Be smart: The Biden administration's worst nightmare is finding out about declining effectiveness by a spike in real-world death rates in a few months. They've instead decided to get ahead of the virus by boosting most people's level of protection, starting with the most vulnerable.

What we're watching: Recent Israeli data suggests that vaccine effectiveness against severe disease has fallen over time among adults 65 and older who haven't received a booster shot.

  • We need way more data to know if the trend is real. It's still entirely possible the vaccines remain effective against severe disease well into the future — at least for the younger population — meaning the U.S. jumped the gun on extra shots.
  • But if it is an accurate foreshadowing of how the vaccines will work in the U.S., the Biden administration's decision will likely save American lives — which is the ultimate point of the booster decision.

Go deeper

Nov 26, 2021 - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID-19 strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.

Nov 26, 2021 - Health

Fauci: U.S. "rushing" to get scientific data about new COVID variant

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

U.S. public health officials were set to speak Friday with their South Africa counterparts as they sought scientific details about a new COVID-19 variant already prompting European and Asian countries to enact new travel restrictions.

Driving the news: Anthony Fauci, President Biden's chief medical adviser, told CNN Friday "we're rushing now to get that scientific data to try and make an informed decision" on a possible travel ban.

Updated Nov 26, 2021 - Health

Europe, Asia tighten borders in fear of new COVID variant

Passengers stand at the check-in at Frankfurt Airport. Photo: Boris Roessler/dpa via Getty Images

Countries across Europe and Asia are rushing through new travel restrictions in response to a new COVID variant identified by scientists in South Africa.

The big picture: Israel, Japan, the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Singapore are moving to restrict entry from countries in the south of Africa, AP reports. Many are also adding quarantines for their own citizens upon return from the region.