- Scientists believe it’s more crucial than ever to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and then receive a booster dose, especially with the development of the Omicron form.
- Increased vaccination rates also minimize the risk of the novel coronavirus spreading and evolving into new, possibly dangerous strains.
- The Omicron variety of the coronavirus contains many more mutations than other coronavirus strains, although it’s unknown if it’s more virulent or contagious than prior versions.
The appearance of the Omicron variant serves as a reminder of the new coronavirus’s unpredictability and adaptability. Omicron variants are more common in locations where the virus is actively circulating, which is mostly in areas with poor vaccination rates.
Vaccination not only protects against bad outcomes such as hospitalization and death, but it also reduces the possibility of the coronavirus spreading and evolving into more dangerous variations as more individuals become vaccinated. Though it’s unknown if Omicron is more transmissible or dangerous in any manner, experts believe that immunization is the best method to keep safe against any viral strain.
“Now is the moment to encourage everyone who isn’t vaccinated to be vaccinated,” said Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu, an infectious diseases expert at Yale Medicine and a main investor in the Pfizer vaccine clinical trials.
Vaccines work better than natural immunity
According to early reports from South Africa, infections are happening in patients who have previously had COVID-19, according to Ogbuagu. Vaccinated persons, in general, have higher protection against infection than those who have immunity from a prior illness, according to Trusted Source. “We know the immunizations give significantly better long-lasting protection against the virus,” Ogbuagu added.
Furthermore, when vaccination rates rise, the virus has less chances to propagate and change into new strains. “Vaccines remain the most effective preventive approach we have, whether because of the Delta variation or future variants,” said Dr. Jorge Salinas, a hospital epidemiologist and assistant professor of medicine in infectious diseases at Stanford.
How do the shots stand up to scrutiny?
Although Salinas believes that the existing COVID-19 vaccinations will give good protection against severe illness and death when tested against Omicron, he believes that the current COVID-19 vaccines will continue to provide strong protection against severe disease and death.
More research is needed to assess if the vaccinations will suffer a slight setback and whether Omicron will have a considerable influence on monoclonal antibody therapy efficacy. Scientists are also keeping an eye on the severity of reinfections and outbreaks.
“Even if it evades immune response but is a weak kind of illness clinically,” Ogbuagu said, “there should be a little less worry since some of the severe clinical consequences — like hospitalization and death — may not occur.” These tests, which are done in a laboratory, are already underway, according to Ogbuagu. Within a few weeks, we should have a better notion of how the vaccinations fare against Omicron.
Will Omicron be helped by booster doses?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) amended its booster guideline on Nov. 29, suggesting that all people who have been vaccinated obtain a booster injection at least 6 months after their second dose of a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine or 2 months after the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
We discovered with the Delta variation that vaccination-induced immunity fades with time, but that a booster dose — which was meant to target the original variety — rapidly restores protection against variants like Beta and Delta. “Even though the booster wasn’t particularly targeting certain variations, we saw greater immune responses against them,” Ogbuagu said.
The same may be said about Omicron, according to Ogbuagu. However, since the new variation has a distinct cluster of mutations, testing will be required to confirm whether this is the case.
Will we get variant-specific shots?
Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines are simple to alter. Omicron-specific vaccinations are already being tested by vaccine makers. We’ll probably need updated injections at some point when the coronavirus changes and new types arise, according to Salinas. Animal and laboratory tests can swiftly show whether variant-specific injections are effective in neutralizing the variation.
Human clinical trials, on the other hand, are more difficult and require many months. In the next weeks, experts studying the outbreaks in South Africa and other regions where Omicron is spreading will provide a lot of indications regarding the need for targeted vaccinations, according to Ogbuagu.
Scientists are reinforcing their advice for vaccination and booster doses in light of the possible danger posed by the Omicron variety. Even with modifications, vaccination is the greatest approach to avoid serious disease and death. Increased vaccination rates also minimize the risk of the novel coronavirus spreading and evolving into new, possibly dangerous strains.