A booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine appears to provide strong protection against the Omicron variant, the companies announced on Wednesday.
He said the results of laboratory studies show that the third dose of his vaccine provides a similar level of neutralizing antibodies to Omicron, which is equivalent to two doses against the original coronavirus and other variants.
Those who received only the primary series of vaccines showed an average 25-fold drop in antibodies against the new variant in their blood samples. This may indicate that two doses of the vaccine may not be enough to protect against infection with Omicron, the companies said.
The highly mutated Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa, has spread around the world, with scientists racing to determine how available vaccines would work against it.
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The companies said the results are preliminary. The findings were detailed in a press release, and full data has yet to be made available for other scientists to investigate.
But laboratory studies are only one piece of the puzzle. Other data is also needed to determine whether a new vaccine is needed. Scientists need to understand what is transmissible (early indications suggest it is more contagious than the delta variant) as well as how sick it makes people (early data suggests that the variant causes disease is minor).
The results of Pfizer-BioNtech have been announced by vaccine manufacturers for the first time.
According to the news release, blood samples were tested from people who had received two or three doses of the vaccine. Samples were collected three weeks after the second dose or one month after the booster.
On Tuesday, a South African research institute also released laboratory results on how the Pfizer vaccine performed against Omicron, showing that there was a forty-fold reduction in vaccine-induced antibodies that can neutralize the new variant. However, that study did not look at booster shots.
On November 25, vaccine companies began developing an Omicron-specific vaccine. Pfizer has said the first batch of the vaccine could be produced and ready for delivery in about 100 days.
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are expected to release lab results from the Omron version in the coming days. Academic research institutions are also looking at how well the vaccine works against Omicron.
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