Will an Omicron-Specific Vaccine Exist?
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Going into February, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 seems to have passed its peak, but experts say it still poses a threat. With the current case numbers and the way the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be going, will an Omicron-specific vaccine be created? Read on below to find out.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have begun clinical trials on a booster shot to specifically target the Omicron variant. At its peak last month, Omicron was causing over 800,000 new daily cases in the U.S. and stands at a risk of overwhelming hospitals and other health services if it begins to rebound and get worse.
Omicron has spread quickly throughout the country, but one of the things that makes it concerning is the fact that reinfection is so common. Recent studies have suggested that infection by the original strain of COVID-19 or the Delta variant can provide a level of immunity against further infection, but with Omicron, this does not seem to be the case.
Is an Omicron-Specific vaccine needed?
According to studies done in the U.K., Pfizer and Moderna’s initial COVID-19 vaccines are only 10% effective at preventing symptomatic infection from the Omicron variant. However, the booster shots are shown to be over 75% effective at preventing symptomatic infection and even better at preventing serious cases.
Since the current vaccine and booster shot have been effective at preventing serious cases of COVID-19, an Omicron-specific vaccine may not be necessary. In December, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to President Biden, said that “at this point, there is no need for a variant-specific booster.” Dr. Fauci stated that the current vaccine is “significantly compromised by Omicron” but that it still provides enough protection against severe disease.
Additionally, an Omicron-specific vaccine might not be worth the trouble, as there have been five different “variants of concern” designated by the CDC since September. It seems that as soon as the concern around one variant subsides, another variant could surface, so efforts might be better spent working on vaccinations that don’t target a specific variant.
When will Omicron-specific vaccines be available?
According to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, the company plans to make an Omicron-specific vaccine available by March. Moderna has not released an official timeline as of today, but work on their mRNA-1273.529 booster for Omicron has begun, and the dose has entered clinical trials. While many think that there is no need for an Omicron-specific vaccine, this vaccine could be somewhat of an “insurance policy” for countries that don’t have hospital infrastructure good enough to handle the flood of Omicron patients.
How will you be able to get vaccinated against Omicron?
As the Omicron-specific vaccine will be a booster shot and not a completely separate vaccine, in order to receive it, you’ll need to have the first two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine first. If you’re concerned about Omicron, consider making plans to receive your first doses of the vaccine now so that you will be eligible to receive the Omicron-specific booster shot when it rolls out.