Pfizer says booster dose protects against Omicron variant

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Pfizer has announced that a booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine appears to provide strong protection against the new Omicron variant.

In a statement on Wednesday, December 8, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said that lab study results reveal that a third dose of their vaccine provides a similar level of neutralizing antibodies to Omicron, comparable to two doses against the original coronavirus and other variants that have emerged.

“A more robust protection may be achieved by a third dose as data from additional studies of the companies indicate that a booster with the current COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech increases the antibody titers by 25-fold,” the companies said in the statement.

According to the companies’ preliminary data, a third dose provides a similar level of neutralizing antibodies to Omicron as is observed after two doses against wild-type and other variants that emerged before Omicron. These antibody levels are associated with high efficacy against both the wild-type virus and these variants. 

“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,” said Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “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.”

The company noted that while these results are preliminary, they will continue to collect more laboratory data and evaluate real-world effectiveness to assess and confirm protection against Omicron and inform the most effective path forward. On November 25, the companies said they started to develop an Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine.

They added that the development will continue as planned in the event that a vaccine adaption is needed to increase the level and duration of protection against Omicron. First batches of the Omicron-based vaccine can be produced and are planned to be ready for deliveries within 100 days, pending regulatory approval. The companies pointed out that they have high confidence that if needed, they can deliver an Omicron-based vaccine in March 2022. 

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