BREAKING! Study Shows That Antibodies From Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine- BNT162b2 May Be Up To 40 Times Less Effective Against Omicron Variant
The first study on the effectiveness of the Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine (BNT162b2) against the new B.1.1.529 or Omicron variant by a laboratory at the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa has revealed that the new variant can partially evade the protection from Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and partner BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr Alex Sigal, a professor at the Africa Health Research Institute, said on Twitter there was "a very large drop" in neutralization of the Omicron variant relative to an earlier strain of COVID. https://twitter.com/sigallab
The research laboratory tested blood from 12 people who had been vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
The details of the study will be available on the laboratory’s site in the next 24 hours or so. https://sigallab.net/
Premiminary paper found here.https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21150195-medrxiv-2021-267417v1-sigal
The preprint manuscript version will be at MedRxiv in coming days.
The research was considered small as it only involved 12 participants but it is the first to provide scientific evidence of the extent to which the new variant may be able to escape the vaccine.
The first lab tests on the new variant in South Africa have shown that antibodies from the Pfizer vaccine may be up to 40 times less effective against Omicron than the original SARS-CoV-2 strain.
Dr Sigal who is a virologist at the Africa Health Research Institute, who led the research told Thailand Medical News
, “Although its ability to escape vaccine antibodies is significant, it's not complete, and that's good news.”
The research found antibodies from individuals who had been vaccinated as well as naturally infected with COVID were significantly more effective against Omicron, suggesting boosters may bring a significant benefit.
Alarmingly, its ability to escape the vaccine was between five and 10 times better than the Beta variant, which was also first reported in South Africa and previously had the best ability to evade the jab.
Dr Sigal said that he believes it's likely Omicron has both an immune escape and a transmission advantage over other variants.
The study findings were data researchers and scientists have been waiting for ever since the Omicron variant was first discovered.
Though it is very preliminary, and the numbers are subject to change, these numbers are significant.
It indicates that in individuals vaccinated against COVID-19 with two jabs of the Pfizer vaccine, the ability of their antibodies to neutralize Omicron was reduced by between 20 and 40 times compared to the original COVID variant against which all our vaccines are made.
This is a huge reduction compared to variants that we have seen before. The Beta variant (previously known as the
South Africa variant) was one of the strongest variants showing this "immune escape" but based on this analysis the Omicron variant is five to ten times better at evading antibodies.
Although the effect observed in this study is significant, it's a lot better than some immunologists had feared. Some were privately worrying that vaccines may have no impact against Omicron at all.
Dr Sigal added, "We saw a lot of escape. But I think the news is pretty good. The fact antibodies from vaccines still recognize Omicron is significant. Especially as there are other parts to the immune system like T-Cells which could work against it too.”
The most promising finding is the fact that individuals who had been infected with COVID-19 previously, as well as being vaccinated, had much improved protection against Omicron.
Hence this would indicate that in places like South Africa, where infection rates have been high in the past, the impact of Omicron could be reduced. It also bodes well for booster vaccination programmes like the one in the UK and the US.
However, more studies, on larger numbers of people, will be needed to confirm these results. But these are the first direct evidence we have of how much of a challenge Omicron might turn out to be.
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