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Pfizer Says Vaccine Booster Should Protect Against Omicron

Dec. 8, 2021 — A raft of new studies, released overnight that looked at the ability of Omicron to evade currently available vaccines, suggest a substantial loss of protection against the highly mutated variant.

The new studies, from teams of researchers in Germany, South Africa, Sweden, and the drug company Pfizer, showed 25- to 40-fold drops in the ability of antibodies created by two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to neutralize the virus. They also found that some monoclonal antibody therapies are ineffective against Omicron.

But there seemed to be a bright spot in the studies, too. The virus didn’t completely escape the immunity from the vaccines, and giving a third, booster dose appeared to restore antibodies to a level that’s been associated with protection against variants in the past.

“One of the silver linings of this pandemic so far is that mRNA vaccines manufactured based on the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 continue to work in the laboratory and, importantly, in real life against variant strains,” says Hana El Sahly, MD, a professor of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

“The strains so far vary by their degree of being neutralized by the antibodies from these vaccines, but they are being neutralized nonetheless,” she says.

El Sahly points out that the Beta variant was associated with a 10-fold drop in antibodies, but two doses of the vaccines still protected against it.

President Joe Biden hailed the study results as good news.

“That Pfizer lab report came back saying that the expectation is that the existing vaccines protect against Omicron. But if you get the booster, you’re really in good shape. And so that’s very encouraging,” he said in an afternoon news briefing.

How Do COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines Work?Some of the COVID-19 vaccines are known as mRNA shots. How are they different from traditional vaccines? And do they contain the real virus?189

[MUSIC PLAYING]

SPEAKER: How does a COVID-19

mRNA vaccine work?

COVID vaccines are now

available.

Some of the COVID-19 vaccines

are mRNA vaccines, but what does

this mean?

mRNA vaccines are

different from traditional

vaccines.

mRNA vaccines don't expose you

to any real virus instead,

they're made with messenger

Ribonucleic Acid or mRNA.

This is a type of molecule that

gives instructions to the cell

for how to make different kinds

of proteins.

mRNA molecules are

a natural part of our cells

and how our bodies work.

Researchers have been working

with mRNA vaccines

for many years.

They are made more easily

and safely in a lab

than a vaccine that uses

a virus.

Because of this they can also

be made faster.

The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines

have passed many tests in labs

and in thousands of people,

and meet strict standards

from the FDA.

So how do these vaccines work?

First, a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine

is injected into a muscle

in your upper arm.

Some muscle cells take the mRNA

instructions in the vaccine

and make a harmless piece

of a protein called

a spike protein.

This protein is found

on the outside of the SARS-CoV-2

virus that causes COVID-19.

The muscle cells then destroy

the instructions for how to make

the spike protein.

The mRNA never goes

into the nucleus of your cells

where your DNA is stored.

The newly made spike protein now

sits on the surface

of the muscle cells.

Your immune system senses

the spike protein

as a foreign threat to destroy,

it starts making antibodies

to fight anything

with that spike protein on it.

This will help your body's

immune system recognize

and fight the real virus if it

ever shows up.

It's like recognizing someone

by the hat they wear.

Your body is then

prepared to spot COVID-19

and fight it off before it grows

in your body's cells.

Fast facts to remember

about COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.

They help get your body

ready to fight off the COVID-19

virus before it makes you sick,

they don't use

any live, dead, or weak virus,

they can't give you COVID-19,

they don't affect your DNA.

Want to learn more,

go to cdc.gov to find more

information about mRNA vaccines.

You can also learn more about

how the vaccines were approved

at fda.gov.

[SWOOSH]

[MUSIC PLAYING]

From Krames/delivery/aws/e1/19/e1194689-aff0-4d9e-9fd2-2c0084642589/b37084c0-2e1f-4b66-958c-96e7a6c3f4db_krames_activating_health_how_mrna_vaccine_works_021021_,4500k,2500k,1000k,750k,400k,.mp402/10/2021 12:00:0018001200photo of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine/webmd/consumer_assets/site_images/article_thumbnails/video/1800x1200_krames_activating_health_how_mrna_vaccine_works_video.jpg091e9c5e8210a400

But other scientists stressed that these studies are from lab tests and don’t necessarily reflect what will happen with Omicron in the real world. They cautioned about a worldwide push for boosters with so many countries still struggling to give first doses of vaccines.

Soumya Swaminathan, MD, the chief scientist for the World Health Organization, stressed in a news briefing that the results from the four studies varied widely, showing dips in neutralizing activity with Omicron that ranged from 5-fold to 40-fold.

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