While acknowledging that the initial two doses of their COVID vaccine might not be effective against the new omicron variant, Pfizer and BioNTech officials said Wednesday that the booster shot for the vaccine may offer protection.
In a joint statement, officials at Pfizer and BioNTech said that, while two doses may not be protective enough to prevent infection, lab tests showed a booster increased by 25-fold people’s levels of virus-fighting antibodies against the omicron variant, the Associated Press is reporting.
Blood samples taken a month after a booster showed people harbored levels of omicron-neutralizing antibodies that were similar to amounts proven protective against earlier variants after two doses.
According to CNBC, the companies said two doses of the vaccine showed a significant reduction in the ability of antibodies to target and neutralize omicron, though they may still protect against severe disease.
“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,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a joint statement with BioNTech.
“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,” Bourla said.
The AP is reporting that scientists don’t yet know how big a threat the omicron variant really is, and that the delta variant is responsible for most of the COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and other countries.
Pfizer announced its findings in a press release, pointing out the results are preliminary and haven’t yet undergone scientific review. But they’re the first from a vaccine maker examining whether the booster doses that health authorities are urging people to get may indeed make an important difference.
Scientists have speculated that the high jump in antibodies that comes with a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines might be enough to counter any decrease in effectiveness. Pfizer and BioNTech already are working to create an omicron-specific vaccine in case it’s needed.