Study shows mRNA booster works on Omicron

key takeaways

  • The CDC data showed that the third dose of any mRNA vaccine was effective against hospitalizations and deaths with the Omicron variant.
  • A laboratory study showed that enhanced protection lasts for at least four months.
  • Getting a third dose can restore antibody levels to COVID-19, although a fourth injection may not be necessary.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster appears to protect the Omicron variant for at least four months, according to a new preprint study. According to the researchers, the study provides “first impressions of Omicron’s neutralization durability.”

The laboratory study assessed and compared the strength of antibody responses in people who were fully vaccinated with Pfizer’s vaccine and those who received a Pfizer booster one month and four months later.

The researchers found that antibody titers against Omicron were low in people who received two doses of Pfizer, but booster injections restored antibody responses. Four months after the booster immunization, titer levels decreased, but protection against the variant remained stronger than with just two doses.

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Experts aren’t sure how long the boosted protection will last after four months, but continue to express confidence in the vaccine’s ability to prevent serious illness and death.

“Current vaccines are beneficial in preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death,” Pei-Yong Shi, Ph.D., Distinguished Chair in Molecular Biology Innovation at the University of Texas Medical Branch and senior author of the study, wrote in an email Very Good . “We know that two and three doses are not as effective at preventing infection as we would like.”

Real data on the effectiveness of Omicron boosters

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that mRNA enhancers are highly effective in preventing COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths during the Omicron surge. Despite the alarming rise in positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths among those vaccinated and boosted remain low.

In a recent study, the agency found that when the Delta variant was the predominant strain in circulation, a third dose of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine was as effective as preventing hospitalizations and emergency room visits related to COVID-19 94%. Two doses (without a booster) were 86% effective in preventing emergency visits between 14 and 179 days after vaccination, and 76% effective at 180 days or more after vaccination.

Is Omicron really gentler?

The agency had less data during the Omicron-dominated period, but came to similar conclusions on booster effectiveness. According to the CDC findings, the third dose of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine was 90 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations and 82 percent effective in preventing emergency room visits.

Two doses of the vaccine were 81% effective at preventing hospitalizations 14-179 days after vaccination and 57% effective 180 days or more after vaccination. They were 52% effective at preventing emergency visits 14-179 days after vaccination and only 38% effective 180 days or more after vaccination.

Is it too late for an Omicron-specific vaccine?

The study did not evaluate children or patients who had received the J&J vaccine. The findings show a decrease in vaccine efficacy over time and underscore the importance of vaccines and boosters, the researchers concluded.

Another recent CDC study looked at the effectiveness of boosters on infection and death compared to two doses.

Between October and November 2021, the agency found that unvaccinated people had almost 14 times the risk of contracting COVID-19 and a 50-fold risk of dying compared to fully vaccinated people who received a booster vaccine times or more. People who received two doses of the vaccine had about 3.5 times the risk of infection and about six times the risk of death from COVID-19.

Will there be a second booster?

More research is needed to determine how long the booster’s protection lasts after four months, Shi wrote, and the findings are critical to help guide the decision on whether to approve a fourth dose of the vaccine.

Preliminary data from Israel suggest that the fourth dose of the vaccine will only slightly increase antibodies and may not significantly affect the level of protection, especially against Omicron.

COVID-19 antiviral drugs in short supply

For evaluating the need (or lack) of an Omicron-specific vaccine, which Shi calls a “backup,” further research is needed on the durability of the booster.

“We have to have both vaccine approaches,” he said.

what does this mean to you

If you received a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least five months ago, or a Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago, an mRNA booster shot protects yourself from severe illness, hospitalization, and death from a variant of COVID-19.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may have updated information as you read this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus news page.