Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE said preliminary laboratory studies suggest a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine may be needed to neutralize the Omicron variant, the results of which will accelerate booster-shot drives around the world and May use new strain-specific. Comments.
The company’s researchers found a 25-fold reduction in neutralizing antibodies compared to the original strain of the virus in people who received just two shots. However, boosting with an additional shot of the vaccine restored protection to the same level as the initial two-dose, Vaccine Partners said in a statement.
The companies said the lab’s findings indicate that two doses of the vaccine “may not be enough” to protect against infection with the Omicron strain. As well as stimulating a booster push, there may be an increased chance that an Omicron-targeted shot may eventually be needed. Pfizer said it would be ready by March.
It’s very clear that the Pfizer-BioNtech shot “should be a three-dose vaccine” to tackle Omicron, Ugur Sahin, BioNTech’s chief executive, said on a conference call. It may be recommended to give a booster as soon as possible, three months after the first two doses, he said.
In the short term, strong antibody levels induced by the third booster dose of Pfizer’s existing vaccine, the branded comiRNA, are likely to provide good protection in early spring for the next few months, buying time to develop new shots and figure out how. Best to move on, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer Mikel Dolston said in an interview. Meanwhile, anecdotal reports suggest that most Omicron infections have been relatively mild.
What Bloomberg Intelligence Says:
“The important question, which applies equally to the delta variant, is how long these high antibody levels last and what they mean for protection against infection and disease. In people vaccinated with only two doses of Omicron. Given a 25-fold reduction in K inactivation, adding data from two other laboratories that show a 40-fold decline, we expect protection from infection to be lost.”
–Sam Fazeli, senior pharmaceuticals industry analyst at BI. Click here to read the research.
According to chief executive Albert Boerla, Pfizer will have more data on the current vaccine’s ability to outpace the Omicron version before the end of the year. The test results, released Wednesday, were obtained using a laboratory construct called a pseudovirus, he said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power with David Westin.” He said the company is still working with the real virus and gathering evidence of how the vaccine works in community use.
Yet the new results cast further uncertainty over the future of COVID vaccination campaigns. Until recently, researchers were highly hopeful that a third booster dose could provide long-lasting protection against COVID and future forms. With the significant immune evasion demonstrated by Omicron, this has become much less clear.
The rise of Omicron “raises the possibility that a variant vaccine will change in the future,” Dolstein said. “Will it be this spring or a year later we don’t know.”
He added that the evolution of the virus also increases the need for annual vaccination against COVID. Whether an Omicron-targeted booster is needed is still unclear. It depends on whether the version continues to spread more widely, and what other versions come out in the next few months, Dolston said.
Still, “we clearly see the rationale now” for a fourth-dose preparation optimized for the variant if necessary at some point, Dolston said. Borla said it’s likely that a boost will need to be done every six months if the company continues to distribute the current shot.
Dolstein said the companies are in talks with the US Food and Drug Administration about whether human trial data would require approval. Another possibility, he said, to reduce immunity in the spring, is to give a fourth dose of the current vaccine.
data around the world
Cirque Poeting, BioNTech’s chief operating officer, said on the conference call that the partners are working to boost production capacity to more than the 4 billion doses currently planned for next year.
“We are absolutely ahead, taking into account all the options on the table,” Dolston said.
The rules around boosters vary widely in countries such as the UK and France, while the World Health Organization has called for the most vulnerable people around the world to be fully vaccinated before giving additional shots. The US recommends all adults get booster shots six months after their second dose.
White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci said in a Washington Post live webinar on Wednesday, “If ever there was a clarion call for those who have not been vaccinated and those who have been fully vaccinated, to promote May go.” The version is clearly that.”
Uncertainty over the vaccine’s efficacy against the new variant has fueled market volatility and prompted travel restrictions since Omicron was identified in southern Africa last month. The S&P 500 had changed little in New York as of 1:04 pm. Shares of Pfizer were down 0.7%, while BioNTech American Depository Receipts fell 3.7%.
The results from Pfizer-BioNTech combine data from around the world in an effort to assess the impact of Omicron on vaccine safety. South African researchers found a 41-fold drop in the levels of virus-blocking antibodies against Omicron compared to the strain that spread at the start of the pandemic. A German team found a 37-fold drop in antibodies against Omicron versus the highly permeable delta variant. Dolston said those results were largely similar to those found by Pfizer and BioNTech in their antibody studies.
However, a study from Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet was more optimistic, detecting a drop in antibodies against Omicron was only slightly worse than Delta’s. T cells, another virus-fighting component of the immune system, must still be able to respond to omicrons. Pfizer and BioNTech said that about 80% of the viral features, called epitopes, recognized by T cells are unchanged in the variant.
The companies said they are watching closely to see how quickly immunity against Omicron declines over time, even after the third dose.