An official of the World Health Organization (WHO) says that existing vaccines should still work against the Omicron variant o protect people who contract with the variant. WHO announcement comes as the initial lab tests of Omicron in South Africa suggest it can somewhat evade the Pfizer vaccine. Researchers say there was a massive drop in how well the antibodies of the vaccine neutralized the new strain.
However, the executive director of the WHO, Dr. Mike Ryan, said that there was no indication that the new variant would be better at negating vaccines than other variants. Ryan told the AFP news agency that highly effective coronavirus vaccines proved efficient against all the variants in severe illness and hospitalization. There is no reason to expect it would not be so for Omicron.
Moreover, he suggested that preliminary statistics suggested the Omicron variant didn’t make people sicker than the Delta variant and other strains. If anything, the direction towards less seriousness. The latest South African study found the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine may be up to forty times less effective against Omicron than the original coronavirus strain.
Boosters may Bring a Significant Benefit Against Omicron
However, the ability of Omicron, combined with the previous COVID-19 infection, could still neutralize against the variant. It suggests booster coronavirus shots may bring a significant benefit. Scientists also believe that previous infections could still neutralize against the variant. It means booster shots may get a considerable advantage. According to health experts, the last infection, followed by inoculation or an additional shot, is probably to increase the neutralization level and will likely protect individuals against severe illness.
More statistics on how well the Pfizer vaccine works against the Omicron variant are expected to release in the coming days. Yet, there is no considerable information on how the Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and other vaccines hold up against the new variant.
Coronavirus in the United Kingdom
So far, the Omicron variant is the heavily transmuted version of COVID-19. Initially, scientists identified the variant in South Africa, and there is now a surge in the number of individuals contracting coronavirus several times. The spokesperson of the United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson said preliminary signs suggested Omicron could be more contagious than the previously detected most infectious Delta variant.
However, the ability of Omicron to cause severe illness is not still clear. The top United States infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said initial evidence suggests Omicron could be more contagious but less severe. According to the recent data from Johns Hopkins University, there have been over two hundred and sixty-seven million cases and over five million deaths across the world since the coronavirus started in 2020.
U.S. Booster Shots Rise to all-time High over Omicron Concerns
On Tuesday, the United States government said that the U.S. nationals are preparing for booster doses at a record pace, with fears about the Omicron variant prompting millions of the residents to take the shots. Around one million people per day received booster shots of one of the three approved vaccines last week, the peak rate since the officials gave the signal to booster doses for some adults in September.
On Tuesday, Jeff Zients, the White House Coronavirus response coordinator, said they administered around seven million individuals a booster: a million additional shots in arms per day. It states that more Americans are getting booster doses a day than before. About fifty-five percent of Americans aged sixty-five and older eligible for a booster shot have received one.
In the last week, health officials administered 12.5 million vaccines shots in the U.S., its highest rate since May. Furthermore, U.S. regulators expanded eligibility for vaccine booster doses to all adults in mid-November. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) statistics, almost forty-seven million people in the U.S. now received a booster dose, nearly a quarter of all fully inoculated adults in the country.
Approximately ten million of those Americans received booster shots since the Thanksgiving holiday when South Africa announced that it had found a new, highly transformed variant, which sparked worldwide alarm of an increase in new infections. In addition, the surge in the cases represents a 12.5 percent rise compared to the boosting rate before the holiday.
Coronavirus Vaccine Makers Plan to Tackle Omicron
Stéphane Bancel, the chief executive of Moderna, told CNBC News that it could take some months to ship an Omicron-specific vaccine. Whereas Stephen Hoge, the Moderna president, said that the drug company is already working on a booster dose and multiple-variant vaccine to combat specifically Omicron – and suggested the idea of using a higher shot of the existing vaccine dependent on how much efficacy declined. Additionally, Bancel signified a material drop in vaccine efficacy amid the high number of mutations of Omicron on the spike protein, which most vaccines use to train the immune system.
Johnson & Johnson said it began work on an Omicron-targeted vaccine and is testing blood serum from individuals taking part in its extra dose trials to see if it can neutralize the variant. According to the head of research and development at the vaccine department of Johnson & Johnson, Mathai Mammen, the company is confident in the strong immune responses the shot showed against other coronavirus variants in clinical trials.
Likewise, the chief of BioNTech, Ugur Sahin, is more confident about the company’s vaccine, which was developed in collaboration with Pfizer. He said that the BioNTech vaccine still offers high-level protection against the virus but expects the variant might be able to infect fully inoculated individuals. Sahin added that booster doses of the existing vaccine should boost this protection against the new variant Omicron. But he admitted that a modified vaccine would require.
Furthermore, AstraZeneca is also examining whether the Omicron variant will impact its vaccine. However, they claimed that the jab still provided high levels of protection against new variants emerging over the year. Health officials reported Omicron in nineteen states across the United States and a mounting number of nations across the globe.