Omicron: Booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can ‘neutralize’ variant, companies say

Pfizer and BioNTech said early Wednesday that three doses of their coronavirus vaccine appear to “neutralize” the omicron variant, while two doses show “significantly reduced neutralization,” according to preliminary data.

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In a news release, the companies said an initial lab study demonstrated that antibodies induced by the vaccine neutralized the variant after a third dose, widely known as a “booster” dose. Three doses appeared to increase neutralizing antibodies against omicron to levels comparable to those induced by two doses against the original strain of the virus, the release said.

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The third dose increased neutralizing antibodies against omicron 25-fold compared to two doses, according to the release.

“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 maximized with a third dose of our vaccine,” Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s CEO, said in a statement.

The study has not yet been peer-reviewed, The Associated Press reported.

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The news came as new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths appeared to be on the rise in the United States. As of Tuesday, the country was averaging more than 120,000 new cases per day – an increase of 27% over the past two weeks, according to The New York Times. In the same 14-day period, new daily hospitalizations rose 19%, while deaths increased 13%, the newspaper reported.

By Tuesday afternoon, more than 60% of Americans were considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning they had received two doses of an mRNA vaccine, such as BioNTech-Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. About 24% of fully vaccinated Americans have received a booster dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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