search

Pfizer says three doses of its COVID vaccine protect against Omicron

Vaccine producer also working on a shot specifically designed for the variant that is slated to be ready in March

Doses of the Pfizer-Biontech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination center in Magdeburg, eastern Germany, on December 27, 2020. (Ronny Hartmann / POOL / AFP)
Doses of the Pfizer-Biontech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination center in Magdeburg, eastern Germany, on December 27, 2020. (Ronny Hartmann / POOL / AFP)

The coronavirus vaccine developed jointly by BioNTech and Pfizer is “still effective” against the Omicron variant of the virus after three doses, the two companies said on Wednesday.

An Omicron-specific version of the jab, which BioNTech began developing on November 25, will be available “by March,” they said in a statement.

Pfizer said that a third dose of its COVID vaccine “increases the neutralizing antibody titers by 25-fold compared to two doses against the Omicron variant,” based on an initial laboratory study.

The initial data, said Pfizer, shows that “a third dose provides a similar level of neutralizing antibodies to Omicron as is observed after two doses against” previous strains of COVID-19.

“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,” said Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s CEO. “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.”

Initial research from a South Africa-based laboratory indicated that the efficacy of two doses of the Pfizer vaccine drops in the face of the Omicron variant, but that those with two doses plus a previous infection were well protected.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla speaks during a ceremony in Thessaloniki, Greece, on October 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos, File)

There were no participants included in the study who had received three doses of the vaccine, since booster shots are not yet available in South Africa.

“These results are better than I expected,” tweeted Alex Sigal, a researcher at Africa Health Research Institute who authored the study. “The more antibodies you got, the more chance you’ll be protected from Omicron.”

Israel has so far confirmed 21 cases of the Omicron variant. Fears of the spread of the new COVID mutation led Israel to shut its borders to foreigners in late November and institute a mandatory three-day quarantine for all those who arrive — even those with three vaccine doses.

Scientists from both the World Health Organization and the United States government have said this week the Omicron variant appears to be no worse than other coronavirus strains — but that more research is still necessary.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed