(WXYZ) — Pfizer says preliminary studies show that two doses of its vaccine may not be enough to protect against the new variant, omicron. But that getting a third dose provides stronger protection.
When Pfizer compared two doses of its vaccine to three doses, they found that the third shot – the booster shot - increased neutralizing antibodies against the omicron variant by 25-fold, and the booster shot was able to neutralize the new variant. Whereas tests involving two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine found antibodies that target and neutralize the variant omicron were significantly reduced. So it appears two doses are not strong enough to stop an infection from omicron. However, two doses may still protect against severe disease. Now, overall, Pfizer’s report sounds positive. But it’s preliminary data, and it was collected in a lab setting. What Pfizer did, was they took blood samples two weeks after volunteers got their second dose of its vaccine, and one month after volunteers got their third dose. The virus that was used in the testing was a synthetic lab-produced copy. So while I’m happy to hear that a booster may ward off omicron, we still need real-world data to know for sure.
Pfizer is closely monitoring cases to see how mild or severe they are, and whether breakthrough cases are just the two-dose regimen or if they include the three-dose regimen as well. In the meantime, Pfizer is continuing to work on a vaccine specifically for omicron, in case one is needed. Now, I know many folks are concerned about this new variant. And it’s unsettling to sit and wait for scientists to learn more. It still looks like omicron causes milder symptoms. But unfortunately, again, we need to wait as it takes time before people get sick enough to be hospitalized and even longer to see if people die from this variant. We do know that it’s very contagious. In one day, omicron cases in the UK went from 101 to 437. We’re also learning there is a stealth version of omicron. This version is harder to detect with lab-based PCR tests because of a genetic change, but it can still be identified through genomic testing. So while we wait to see how Omicron will affect people, it’s important to not only get vaccinated but also to get boosted when you’re eligible.
I’ve mentioned before that I got my booster shot a while back. And I can tell you that there is peace of mind that comes from getting the third shot. Especially now that we’re seeing preliminary data showing three doses can neutralize the omicron variant.
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