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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Covid: Pfizer says booster shot promising against Omicron

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Pfizer and BioNTech have said a booster jab of their coronavirus vaccine promises to be an effective defence against the new Omicron variant.

Following a small study, the companies concluded that three doses provide a similar level of antibodies against Omicron as two doses against other variants.

The World Health Organization (WHO) previously stated that vaccines should still be effective against severe Omicron cases.

Researchers from all over the world are piecing together information about Omicron.

It is the most heavily mutated coronavirus variant discovered thus far.

In a statement on Wednesday, Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla said protection against the variant would be improved with a third dose of the jab.

“The best course of action to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is to ensure that as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two dose series and a booster,” he said.

Pfizer and BioNTech, on the other hand, noted that the results were preliminary and stated that they would continue to collect data and “evaluate real-world effectiveness.”

They also stated that they were working on an Omicron-specific vaccine that would be ready for delivery within 100 days, subject to regulatory approval.

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech research and a new South African study – not yet peer-reviewed – found that the vaccine might result in far fewer neutralising antibodies against Omicron than against the original Covid strain.

Pfizer/BioNTech, however, said a third dose boosted those antibodies by a factor of 25, making the level of protection comparable to that of two doses against other variants.

More than just antibodies

Several studies have now shown that Omicron outperforms other variants in evading a portion of the immune system.

But what exactly does this mean?

The research has focused on neutralising antibodies that bind to the virus and prevent it from infecting our body’s cells.

If these become less effective, it may increase your chances of catching Covid, but it is far too early to say how likely that is.

There are also indications that a third dose or a combination of previous infection and vaccines would reduce the risk.

Vaccines are still very likely to protect the majority of people from serious disease because they train far more of the immune system than just neutralising antibodies.

T-cells, which are activated once an infection has begun, are more effective at dealing with variants because they can attack different parts of the virus.

A large and sudden wave of Omicron, on the other hand, could cause problems even if it is mild for most people.

If the few people who will get severe Covid all get infected with Omicron at the same time, it could put a strain on hospitals once more.

There is currently no significant data on how the Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and other jabs compare to the new variant.

Mike Ryan, the WHO’s director of emergencies, previously stated that there was no evidence that Omicron would be better at evading vaccines than other variants.

“We have highly effective vaccines that have proven effective against all variants so far, in terms of severe disease and hospitalisation, and there’s no reason to expect that it wouldn’t be the same for Omicron,” Dr Ryan told AFP.

Omicron was discovered in South Africa, where there is currently an increase in the number of people who have caught Covid multiple times.

According to the spokesman for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, early indications suggest that Omicron may be more transmissible than the current Delta strain.

However, Omicron’s ability to cause severe disease is unknown.

According to Dr. Ryan of the WHO, preliminary data suggested that Omicron did not make people sicker than Delta and other strains, but rather that it was less severe.

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases expert in the United States, preliminary evidence suggests that Omicron may be more transmissible but less severe.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 267 million cases of coronavirus and more than five million deaths worldwide since the pandemic began.

SourceBBC
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