No need for Omicron-specific shot, existing vaccines enough: Top COVID expert

Quoting findings of a study on the efficacy of Moderna vaccine on Omicron, Dr Antony Fauci, US President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser said that two doses of the vaccine were 70 per cent effective at preventing hospitalization and death

Representative Photo: PTI

Amid concerns over the efficacy of COVID vaccine on Omicron, leading infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci has said that the existing vaccines and booster shots available in the market are enough to prevent infections caused by the new variant.

A recent study in South Africa suggested that Omicron is evasive against the double-dose COVID vaccine as protection against the infection was found to have slumped to 33 per cent from an earlier 80 per cent after the discovery of the new infectious variant.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday also said that if preliminary evidence is to be believed, COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective against infection and transmission linked to Omicron which also could trigger breakthrough infections in full vaccinated populations. The nodal health agency, however, said that more data is required to establish the extent to which Omicron is capable of evading immunity derived from a previous infection or vaccines.

Also read: Omicron alert: Parents aren’t panicking, but want schools shut if cases rise

Dr Fauci, during a White House COVID update on Wednesday, however, stressed that two doses of the COVID vaccine were still found to be 70 per cent effective at preventing hospitalization of patients affected with Omicron in South Africa.

Dr Fauci, US President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser made the claim based on the preliminary data by his institute National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ analysis of the Moderna vaccine.

The study found that while two shots of the COVID vaccine produced a negligible antibody response against Omicron in the laboratory, the protection became stronger after a third or booster dose.

“Our booster vaccine regimens work against Omicron. At this point, there is no need for a variant-specific booster,” Fauci said.

“Obviously, this is significantly down but there is the maintaining of a degree of protection against hospitalization,” he added.

While advising people who are yet to be vaccinated to take their shots, Fauci said the next step should be to take a booster shot as it increases protection against the disease to 75 per cent, as per data by the UK Health Security Agency.

Also read: Omicron spreading faster than any other variant, warns WHO

Fauci’s claim is backed by several studies which have batted for a booster shot to get protection against Omicron. Scientists at the WHO meeting on Wednesday also stressed that the T cells in vaccinated people can offer strong resistance against the virus, thus helping in preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death.

Finding of studies similar to Dr Fauci’s were presented by researchers at the WHO meeting, who asserted that booster shots of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines raised the protection level against the virus.

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