The study found that the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine may be less effective on Omicron

According to a South African study, the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine may not be as effective as other coronavirus strains on Omicron, but it still provides a certain degree of protection. The study provides early (if incomplete) information on how the jab handles new variants. analyze.

Researchers from the African Institute of Health report that the loss of immune protection from vaccines is “extensive but incomplete.” First published research That was a fierce attack on Omicron.

The researchers collected 14 plasma samples from 12 participants who had received two doses of the BioNTech vaccine and tested the plasma’s ability to neutralize Omicron.

Laboratory experiments found that compared with the original virus strain detected in Wuhan nearly two years ago, Omicron infection caused a 41-fold reduction in virus-blocking antibodies.

Omicron also escaped antibody neutralization “wider[ly]” Compare Previously dominant Beta variant The authors of the study found that in South Africa.

However, Alex Sigal, the head of laboratory research in Durban, said that despite the significant reduction in antibody production, Omicron has not completely avoided vaccines.

In a more positive finding, the researchers report that people previously infected with Covid-19 retain a “relatively high level” of antibody protection in addition to the dual vaccine. They added that this “may protect people from serious illnesses that are infected by Omicron.”

The preliminary results are as follows The rapid spread of Omicron variants Since it was first discovered in South Africa at the end of November, it has raised concerns among health experts that it might evade existing vaccines.

BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin responded to the publication of the South African research report, saying that the company expects to release its own data later this week. “I will be more optimistic,” he told NBC.

Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research and Translational Institute, said the results suggest that vaccine manufacturers may have to develop a New Omicron dedicated booster.

He added: “This looks like we expected, and many vaccine breakthrough cases that Omicron has reported.”

Danny Altman, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said the South African study raised hopes that “enhanced people are generally safe.”

Altman said that studies have shown that people who have been infected twice before are “all in the safe zone,” and he said that this group is in some respects comparable to those who have received three injections.

Jacob Glanville (Jacob Glanville), a computational immunologist and founder of American therapeutic company Centivax, said this study shows that most people who are double vaccinated are susceptible to Omicron infection.

“reason [public health officials] People are asked to improve because. .. [double-vaccinated] People will have a little antibody protection, but most people don’t have enough antibodies to effectively neutralize the virus,” he added.

Nonetheless, Granville added that compared to antibodies, T cells target a wider part of the virus and will allow double-vaccinated people to “retain protection from serious diseases.”

Morgan Stanley said that data from the African Institute showed that after the use of Omicron, the effectiveness of vaccines against symptomatic diseases dropped significantly to less than 50%.

Morgan Stanley analyst Matthew Harrison said: “Although we are waiting for further data from Moderna and Pfizer, we think the possibility of specific variant boosters has increased.”

Last week, Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, warn The new variants may cause a “substantial decrease” in the effectiveness of the vaccine.

In addition, researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden stated that they have observed that the neutralization loss for Omicron is “unusually variable”, with some samples having “almost no loss” and some showing more.

Ben Murrell, one of the researchers, said that the average loss of neutralization effectiveness was “lower than expected,” which would make Omicron worse than Delta, but “not as extreme as we expected.” The researchers used a fake virus that looked like a new strain in their experiments.

They said that the common denominator between the South African and Swedish studies is that “not all samples have completely lost their neutralizing effect, which is positive.”

The neutralization test cannot perfectly predict whether the vaccine will be effective. Earlier on Tuesday, Kate O’Brien, head of vaccines at the World Health Organization, said: “We already know that the performance of antibodies on mutations is a piece of information,” but a more complete effectiveness study will not be completed for a period of time.

Additional reporting by Peter Wells in New York

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