DETROIT – Pfizer announced on Wednesday that preliminary research suggests its booster shots are effective against the omicron variant. They also warned that just two doses may not be sufficient.
These very early results have not been peer-reviewed yet and the actual data has not been released. However, Pfizer said its initial studies do offer hope that its current vaccines may offer adequate protection if you’ve received three doses.
Scientists at Pfizer looked at blood samples in the lab from people who had received two doses of its vaccine and found they had much lower antibody levels against the omicron variant. However, blood samples taken from people one month after a booster suggested much better protection.
“Three doses against omicron are almost equivalent to the two doses effectiveness that we had against the original variant. That is very good news,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said.
Bourla said if an updated vaccine is needed, his company can produce one possible as soon as March.
“If we need a new vaccine those tests are telling me that we will be able to have a very good one. If we need one against omicron because, really, we’re able to with some tweaks, produce way higher results. I’m not sure we’ll need it because it’s one very likely scenario that the current booster will be enough to maintain protection,” Bourla said.
While a third dose may be needed to prevent infection from omicron, Pfizer said two doses may still protect against severe disease and death. Pfizer is also studying whether children in the 12 to 15 age bracket need boosters or not -- since they tend to have higher antibody levels initially than adults.
That data could be available sometime next week. We expect to hear the results of the government’s lab tests next week, plus more real-world data from South Africa as the variant continues to spread there.
The bottom line is that this is encouraging news, but there is much more to be learned.