Omicron variant has ‘robust ability’ to evade COVID vaccines, but Pfizer says booster shots have ‘neutralized’ it – .

Omicron variant has ‘robust ability’ to evade COVID vaccines, but Pfizer says booster shots have ‘neutralized’ it – .

Johannesbourg – South African scientists who tested the current COVID-19[feminine[feminine Vaccines against the novel Omicron variant of the coronavirus have published some early findings that show the strain has a “robust ability” to evade the immunity offered by inoculation. But, as CBS News foreign correspondent Debora Patta reports, it’s not all bad news.
US vaccine maker Pfizer and German partner BioNTech said on Wednesday that while the standard two-dose regimen of their vaccine was “significantly less effective at blocking the virus,” a booster “neutralized the Omicron variant in laboratory tests ”.

Pharmaceutical companies have released a statement on their latest data as they and independent researchers try to understand just how much of a threat Omicron poses to the world. News from Pfizer and BioNTech echoed what scientists in South Africa have reported, including that standard two-dose inoculation “may still induce protection against serious illness.”

Alex Sigal, the researcher behind the latest data from the South African trials, said what his team found was “better than I expected”, showing that Omicron still relies on the same biological mechanism to attack human cells that previous variants used. This means that current vaccines – which make the body deploy two weapons against COVID-19 that work in different ways, T cells and antibodies – will still have some effect.

Sigal said in a series of tweets announcing his team’s preliminary data, which has yet to be peer reviewed, that although there has been “a very large drop in Omicron neutralization” observed with the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, the highly mutated strain “escapes” from vaccine protection was “incomplete” which he said “means it’s a treatable problem with the tools we have (sic)” .

In other words, although the vaccines alone seem to offer significantly less protection against capture of the new variant, they will still be useful. Importantly, vaccines are expected to continue to keep people out of hospitals, even with Omicron, and there is also information to suggest that the new strain may attract fewer people to intensive care units than previous variants to begin with.

Dr Mike Ryan, director of emergencies for the World Health Organization, stressed on Wednesday that there was no indication as yet that vaccines would be less effective in preventing serious illness with Omicron than with previous variants.

“We have very effective vaccines which have been shown to be effective against all variants so far, in terms of serious illness and hospitalization,” he told French news agency AFP. “And there is no reason to expect it not to be so” for Omicron.

Ryan also pointed to early real-world information from South Africa, which suggests that while Omicron is extremely contagious, it doesn’t seem to make people sicker than Delta or other strains: “If anything either, the direction is towards less gravity. ”

Delta variant still dominates new infections


As South Africa heads to the peak of its fourth wave, one of the country’s leading vaccinologists told Patta the world doesn’t need to wait for lab results to determine if Omicron is over. deadly, because there is already data from hospitals, and it’s better news than expected.

South African health officials are rushing to vaccinate people as Omicron spreads rapidly across the country, but Patta says there has been one notable difference with this wave: It was not accompanied by the high number of hospitalizations and deaths associated with previous outbreaks of infections of other variants.

When Patta and her team visited a COVID hospital ward six months ago during the nation’s deadly third wave, fueled by the Delta variant, she was overwhelmed. Intensive care beds and oxygen were desperately needed.

Today, despite the huge spike in new infections from Omicron, the same hospital is unrecognizable. Their COVID services are half empty – and science backs up the powerful anecdotal evidence.

The Delta variant is fueling a wave of infections in the United States.


While the study by Sigal’s team shows that the Pfizer vaccine may be 40 times less effective at preventing Omicron infections, the cases confirmed so far in South Africa have been much milder than those seen in South Africa. previous waves, according to vaccinologist Professor Shabir Madhi.

“What this tells us is that we develop a certain level of immunity, even against Omicron, which is sufficient to prevent the infection from progressing to serious illness and death,” said Madhi, a researcher. principal who has led many projects in South Africa. COVID-19 testing.

What seems to help a lot is “T cell immunity”. Unlike antibodies which can prevent a virus from binding to human cells in the first place, the body’s T cells, induced by both vaccines and past infections, attack infected cells to prevent the disease from getting worse.

Bloomberg Best of the Year 2021
A health worker prepares a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty brand COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination site at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, August 20, 2021.
Photographer: Dwayne Senior / Bloomberg / Getty

Madhi said that in Johannesburg, where infections have increased, more than 70% of the population has developed antibodies against COVID-19, and not just from vaccines.

Vaccination rates remain low in South Africa, but so many people have already been infected with COVID that there are high levels of natural immunity in the population. Getting there, however, comes at a cost. Almost 90,000 lives have been lost to the disease according to official tally, but many experts say the true toll is likely closer to 270,000.

Inside the Omicron laboratory


Scientists point out that while current vaccines may not be as effective at preventing Omicron variant infections, they are still crucial.

“When people choose not to be vaccinated, they are more likely to end up in hospital and die from COVID-19,” Madhi said.

South Africa now has enough vaccines for the country, but adoption has slowed in recent weeks due to apathy and reluctance to take vaccines.

Nurse Ivy Kaunda spends her days traveling to communities to convince reluctant residents to get vaccinated.

Every person she convinces is a success, and every success counts on that front because they are one more person armed against COVID-19 with the most powerful weapons we have.

The South African government is considering making vaccines mandatory as it steps up the fight against the new variant.


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