New Variant Evades Vaccine Protection


Omicron coronavirus variant partly evades Pfizer vaccine's protection, study shows

The Omicron variant partially escapes the protection offered by the Pfizer vaccine, but people who have been previously infected and then vaccinated are likely to be well protected. Boosters are also likely to protect people.

It's the first experiment to directly look at how the Omicron virus might behave in vaccinated people. Tests in lab dishes using samples from 12 people who had been fully vaccinated with Pfizer's vaccine showed the Omicron variant could evade the immune protection built by the vaccine.

The mutations that characterize the Omicron variant looked like they could allow it to evade the immunity offered by vaccines to a greater extent. The experiment indicates it doesn't. 

Sigal's team used human lung cells for the tests. Blood from the six volunteers who had been infected and then vaccinated was better able to neutralize the virus, they reported in a study submitted to an online preprint site. It has not been peer reviewed. The study does not reflect actual infection with the virus.

Other studies looking at immune protection against variants have shown many of the Covid-19 vaccines create very strong immune protection that provides a cushion of extra immunity -- so that even if a variant escapes some of the immunity, there is plenty left to shield people from severe disease. 

The team plans to test more samples and to test them against different vaccines, including the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was also deployed widely in South Africa.

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