Study: Omicron Variant Reduces COVID Antibody Protection

December 9, 2021 Topic: Omicron Region: Americas Blog Brand: Coronavirus Tags: OmicronCoronavirusPandemicVaccinationBooster Shot

Study: Omicron Variant Reduces COVID Antibody Protection

But a booster shot raises antibody protection twenty-five-fold compared to the initial two-dose series.

South African scientists have confirmed that the highly mutated Omicron coronavirus variant that was first detected on the same continent two weeks ago significantly reduces antibody protection generated by Pfizer and BioNTech vaccines.

However, those individuals who have recovered from the contagion and received their booster shots will likely possess more protection from severe disease, according to a small study of twelve participants released on Tuesday.  

40-Fold Drop 

The research discovered that there was a more than forty-fold drop in the ability of the antibodies to neutralize the Omicron variant compared to the original virus. Moreover, vaccine-induced antibodies sunk three-fold in their ability to neutralize the earlier beta variant that previously dominated the country, which indicates that the Omicron is more adept at evading protection. 

“The results we present here with Omicron show much more extensive escape” than the beta variant, the researchers wrote in their study. 

“Previous infection, followed by vaccination or booster is likely to increase the neutralization level and likely confer protection from severe disease in Omicron infection,” they continued.  

Protection from Booster Shots 

Meanwhile, Pfizer and BioNTech have announced that their booster doses have been shown to provide a high level of protection against the Omicron variant in an initial lab study. 

The results revealed that a booster shot raised antibody protection twenty-five-fold compared to the initial two-dose series—which is comparable to 95 percent protection provided by two doses against the original strain of the virus. 

“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,” Albert Bourla, the chief executive officer of Pfizer, noted in a joint statement between his company and BioNTech. 

“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,” he continued, adding that the company will likely have enough data by the end of the month to determine whether a booster dose is enough to fight the omicron variant or if a new vaccine is needed.  

Additionally, Bourla admitted that a variant that spreads quickly but causes milder symptoms isn’t necessarily “good news.”  

“I don’t think it’s good news to have something that spreads fast,” Bourla told the Wall Street Journal Tuesday during an interview at the paper’s CEO Council Summit.  

“Spreads fast means it will be in billions of people and another mutation may come,” he added. “You don’t want that.” 

Ugur Sahin, co-founder and CEO of BioNTech, contended that booster campaigns across the world need to continue in order to give people better protection against the variant amid the winter season.  

“Our preliminary, first dataset indicate that a third dose could still offer a sufficient level of protection from disease of any severity caused by the Omicron variant,” he said in a statement. 

The Omicron variant so far has been detected in at least nineteen U.S. states and more than fifty countries on six continents.  

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.  

Image: Reuters