Omicron Evades Vaccine Protection

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The CNN Health writes quoting a new study from South Africa that the Omicron variant ‘escapes the protection offered by the Pfizer vaccine, but people who have been previously infected and then vaccinated are likely to be well protected’.

Alex Sigal of the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban and lead of the study team, told CNN that “This is not a variant that has completely escaped. It certainly escapes. It is certainly bad. But it looks to me like there are ways of dealing with it.”

There is a very large drop in neutralization of Omicron by BNT162b2 [Pfizer/BioNTech] immunity relative to ancestral virus. Omicron escape from BNT162b2 neutralization is incomplete. Previous infection + vaccination still neutralizes.

– Alex Sigal of the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban (source: CNN Health)

According to CNN, the S. African research team tested human lung cells using blood from the six volunteers who had been infected and then vaccinated to look whether they were better able to neutralize the virus.

“I thought this news was very positive. I expected worse. The mutations that characterize the Omicron variant, looked like they could allow it to evade the immunity offered by vaccines to a greater extent,” Sigal told CNN.

Sigal added “My impression is if you get a booster you are protected, especially against severe disease. It took a hit — a bigger hit than we have seen before — but it didn’t take it down to levels that are insubstantial.”

According to a news release by the Pfizer/BioNTech company, base on their lab studies three doses of vaccine are able to neutralize the new Omicron variant.

“Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the Omicron strain, it’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine. Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

– Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO said in a statement (source: CNN Health)

Dr. Mikael Dolsten, chief scientific officer at Pfizer, told CNN “We believe that with the two doses, you still have relevant protection for severe disease, but clearly the drop is antibodies is substantial. However, the good news this morning is that our data show convincingly when you get your boost — the third boost — the antibody levels rise 25 fold and are now similar to the originally two dose boost that protected well against ancestral strains as well as Delta.”

“Go and get your third boost and you have a robust, quite impressive antibody response as well as a strengthening of the other arm of the immune system, the T cells. That’s really the takeaway … two doses is on the weak end against this new variant, T cells may help you to be protected against severe disease, hospitalization — but it’s really time to get the third boost.”

Coronavirus-19 vaccination watch

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID vaccination tracker page (as of Dec 9, 9 a.m.) 588,422,575 doses have been distributed and 477,433,765 doses administered. According MDH COVID-19 Response vaccine data (as of Dec 6) a total of 8,147,096 doses of Covid-19 (Pfizer & Moderna) vaccines have been administered in Minnesota. According to the MDH latest tally (as of Dec 9) the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are 952,232 (out of 15,314,720 tested) with 9,814 deaths.