Does The Pfizer Vaccine Protect Against The COVID-19 Omicron Variant?

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may only offer partial protection against the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19, according to a small preliminary study conducted by the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa (via New York Times). After testing blood samples from 12 fully vaccinated people, 6 of whom were previously infected with the virus, researchers found that the new strain significantly reduces the level of antibodies generated by the vaccine.

In fact, they found a 41-fold decline in the levels of neutralizing antibodies against the Omicron variant, compared to those generated by other strains of COVID-19. While the Pfizer vaccine still provides some protection against the new variant, it may not be enough. "Given the very large drop in neutralizing antibody titers that are seen here with Omicron, certainly in my view it would merit pushing forward as fast as possible with making Omicron-specific vaccines, as long as it seems like there's a possibility it could spread widely," Jesse Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, told the New York Times.

A booster shot may provide better protection

Fortunately, you may not have to wait for the creation of a more specific COVID-19 vaccine in order to stay protected against the Omicron variant (via CNN). An additional booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine may be enough to provide sufficient protection against the highly transmissible strain. According to a joint press release from Pfizer and BioNTech, lab study results show that a third dose of the vaccine may offer a more robust antibody response.

"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," Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of Pfizer, said in the statement. "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."