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With the Omicron variant of COVID causing people to worry all around the world, health officials have urged people to be alert and receive their coronavirus vaccinations on time. Furthermore, the emergence of the new strain has sparked a debate about the need for vaccine boosters. While vaccination boosters are widely used in certain countries, such as the United States and Israel, India has yet to contemplate authorizing them, believing that many people obtained natural immunity during the second wave and that two doses of COVID vaccine provide sufficient protection. Many people, however, believe that vaccination immunity fades over time. Those with pre-existing medical issues or a weakened immune system are still at high risk.
Pfizer said on Wednesday that the third dose of its mRNA vaccine can protect against the Covid-19 Omicron strain. According to the company, results from initial laboratory research showed that serum antibodies elicited by the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine (BNT162b2) neutralise the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant after three doses. Antibody levels this high are linked to great efficacy against both the wild-type and mutant viruses. A third dosage significantly raises CD8+ T cell levels against various spike proteins, which are thought to be linked to disease protection. The great majority of them are unaffected in the Omicron spike variation compared to the wild-type virus.
"Sera obtained from vaccines one month after receiving the booster vaccine (third dose of BNT162b2 vaccine) neutralised the Omicron variant to levels that are comparable to those observed for the wild-type SARS-CoV-2 spike protein after two doses," the company said.
Vaccinated individuals may still be protected against severe variants of the disease, according to the company, which is closely tracking real-world effectiveness against Omicron around the world. According to recent research, a booster shot of the current Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech improves antibody titers by a factor of 25.
Albert Bourla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Pfizer, said in a statement "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 the third dose of our vaccine."
Ugur Sahin, CEO and Co-Founder of BioNTech said, "Broad vaccination and booster campaigns around the world could help us to better protect people everywhere and to get through the winter season. The company continues to work on an adapted vaccine which will help to induce a high level of protection against Omicron-induced Covid-19 disease as well as prolonged protection compared to the current vaccine."
Meanwhile, a small study performed by South African researchers found that Pfizer's Covid vaccination is up to 40 times less efficient than the original virus against the new super mutant Omicron version. However, Prof Alex Sigal, a virologist at the Africa Health Research Institute, claimed that Omicron's capacity to evade vaccine antibodies is "incomplete."
"Previous infection, followed by vaccination or booster is likely to increase the neutralisation level and likely confer protection from severe disease in Omicron infection," he added.
(with inputs from agencies)
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