Jamie Gumbrecht | CNN
Preliminary laboratory studies show that two doses of Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine may not provide sufficient protection against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, but three doses can neutralize it, the companies said in a press release on Wednesday.
Samples from people who received two doses of Covid-19 vaccine, on average, showed more than a 25-fold decrease in neutralizing ability against the Omicron variant than the earlier virus, “indicating that two doses of BNT162b2 may not be enough to protect … against infection with the Omicron variant, ”the company said.
The companies said two doses could still provide protection against severe illness.
“While two doses of the vaccine may still provide protection against severe disease caused by the Omicron strain, it is clear from this preliminary data that protection is improved with the third dose of our vaccine,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Burla said in a statement. “Ensuring that as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two dose series and booster vaccinations remains the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Initial laboratory studies used serum from people who received two or three doses of Pfizer / BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Sera were collected from subjects three weeks after the second dose or one month after the third dose.
Pfizer and BioNTech continue to develop a variant-specific vaccine for Omicron and say it will be available by March if needed.
The data released Wednesday has not been peer-reviewed or published.
Researchers in South Africa on Tuesday released a preprint of the study that showed the Omicron variant of the coronavirus eludes the protection offered by the Pfizer vaccine in part. The study found that people who were previously infected and then vaccinated were likely to be well protected, and Alex Segal of the African Health Research Institute in Durban, who led the research team, told CNN that boosters can protect people as well.
“My impression is that if you get a booster, you are protected, especially from serious illness,” Segal said.
Since reports surfaced of the Omicron variant in late November, US health officials have urged people to get vaccinated and boosted. Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending that all adults get the Covid-19 booster vaccine.
Adults who have received Pfizer or Moderna Covid-19 vaccines are eligible for booster vaccinations six months after the second vaccination. Those who have received the one-time Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible to booster any approved vaccine two months after their first dose.
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