US President Joe Biden on Omicron: ‘I have some good news’

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday hailed the report that Pfizer/BionTech’s Covid-19 vaccine’s booster dose can work against Omicron variant of coronavirus. The US president said, “Pfizer lab report came back saying that the expectation is that the existing vaccines protect against Omicron. But if you get the booster, you’re really in good shape”. Biden said that it was an encouraging development, and added, ” That’s the lab report. more studies are going on. But that’s very, very encouraging”.

Pfizer/BioNTech has claimed that its two doses vaccine might not be enough to protect against the Omicron strain, but they stressed that was “still effective” after a third jab. The two companies warned that “the Omicron variant is probably not sufficiently neutralised after two doses.”

According to early laboratory research using blood serum from vaccinated people, a booster third dose generated around the same level of antibodies against Omicron as is seen after a second dose with the initial strain.

Blood samples from around 20 people who had received two doses of the current vaccine showed on average a 25-fold reduction in neutralising antibodies compared to the early strain of the virus, the companies said.

But they added that another part of the immune response — from T cells — was probably still effective against the variant, adding that “vaccinated individuals may still be protected against severe forms of the disease”.

Their results have not been peer-reviewed.

“We still need to be very measured and take a wait and see approach, but I think what we do have is at least encouraging,” virologist Angela Rasmussen of Canada’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization said.

“Boosters will definitely help keep the rate of Omicron breakthrough slower,” she added.

Yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that Omicron poses higher infection risks to people who have already had the virus or been vaccinated than previous variants, and there is a preliminary indication it could cause milder disease.

But even if confirmed to be less severe, the variant is likely even more transmissible than Delta, meaning it could reach and thus sicken more people.

As a result, several countries are proposing for the booster dose to mitigate the risk of transmission. BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said that reducing the time required between second and third doses of the vaccine was the “right way to go” to increase protection through the winter. The United Kingdom has begun giving booster shots to individuals at least three months after their second dose.

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