CAPE TOWN - On Wednesday, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE announced an initial study from its laboratory demonstrated that serum antibodies induced by the Pfizer vaccine neutralises the SARS-CoV-2 omicron variant after three doses.
It said that sera obtained from vaccines one month after receiving the booster vaccination, neutralised the omicron variant levels comparable to those observed for the wild-type SARS-CoV-2 spike protein after two doses.
Sera from individuals who received their two doses of the Pfizer vaccine exhibited an average of more than 25-fold reduction in neutralisation titers against the omicron variant. This is compared to the wild-type, which indicates two doses may not be sufficient to protect people against infection from the omicron variant.
It said as the vast majority of epitopes targeted by vaccine-induced T cells are not affected by the mutations in Omicron, the companies believe that vaccinated individuals may still be protected against severe forms of the disease.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Pfizer, Albert Bourla said protection against the omicron is increased with a third dose.
“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 a third dose of our vaccine.
“Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of Covid-19,” Bourla said.
Ugur Sahin, CEO and Co-founder of BioNTech said its preliminary first dataset indicates that a third dose could still offer a sufficient level of protection from any severity caused by the omicron variant.
“Broad vaccination and booster campaigns around the world could help us to better protect people everywhere and to get through the winter season.
“We continue to work on an adapted vaccine which, we believe, will help to induce a high level of protection against omicron-induced Covid-19 disease as well as a prolonged protection compared to the current vaccine,” Sahin said.
The companies stated that while the results are preliminary, it will continue to collect more laboratory data and evaluate real world effectiveness to assess and confirm protection against omicron.
They also revealed that development on an omicron specific Covid-19 vaccine started on 25 November. Its development will continue as planned, in the event that a vaccine adaptation is needed to increase the level and duration of protection against the new variant.
They said their first batches of the omicron-based vaccine could be produced and ready for delivery within 100 days pending regulatory approval.
The companies stated it has tested other variant-specific vaccines which have produced strong neutralisation titers and a tolerable safety profile.
They expect the omicron-based vaccine to be available in March 2022.