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COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective against omicron without booster, study suggests

Posted at 3:57 PM, Dec 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-15 17:47:40-05

(WXYZ) — A new American study has found all three COVID-19 vaccines used in the United States are less protective against the new variant omicron.

That is unless you’ve been boosted.

The research team is from Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts General Hospital. They tested blood samples from people who had received vaccines developed by the three U.S. drugmakers — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

The researchers found “low to absent” antibody neutralization of the omicron variant. In simpler terms, not much was happening — the antibodies were not fighting off omicron, which is not good.

Now, the researchers saw these results with the regular vaccine regimens, meaning two doses of Pfizer or Moderna and one dose of J&J. But I don’t want people to get discouraged by this because I’ve got good news: When the researchers tested blood taken from people who had a booster dose, they saw potent neutralization of the variant. This meana the antibodies are doing what we want them to do, and that’s fight off the variant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says omicron represents about 3% of U.S. sequenced cases. And it is spreading pretty fast because the week before it only represented about 0.4%.

Unfortunately, this is not too surprising as scientists believe this variant is roughly twice as transmissible as delta. So, it’s very contagious.

Having said that, we’re not expecting omicron to gain ground here in the U.S. at the same pace as the UK. There, cases are doubling every two days. But of course, this could all change. It’s very possible we’ll face higher caseloads in the new year, which really concerns me.

Michigan already has too many cases and our hospitals are struggling. So, everyone needs to take omicron seriously. Don’t take the “wait and see” approach — get fully vaccinated and get boosted. When you get boosted, you’re not supplementing your initial response. Instead, what’s happening is your boosting an older response. And that’s why time is so important. People should get boosted six months after their second shot of Pfizer or Moderna, or two months after J&J’s one-shot dose.

As we've seen from these studies, getting a booster really increases people’s protection levels against omicron.