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Pfizer Says Their COVID Vaccine Plus the Booster Offers Significant Protection Against Omicron

·3 min read
Staff are seen preparing Pfizer vaccine doses inside the Melbourne Showgrounds COVID-19 Vaccination Centre on July 20, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia
Staff are seen preparing Pfizer vaccine doses inside the Melbourne Showgrounds COVID-19 Vaccination Centre on July 20, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia

Daniel Pockett/Getty A dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine

Early laboratory testing shows that three doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine offers significant protection against the new, fast-spreading omicron variant, the companies said Wednesday.

Pfizer and BioNTech analyzed blood samples from two types of people — those who had just the two-dose series of the vaccine and those who had that plus a third booster dose. Those with just the two doses had much lower antibody levels that would protect them against omicron, in comparison to their antibody levels with previous variants like delta. That raised concerns that the original vaccination series "may not be sufficient to protect against infection" from omicron, the companies said.

That changed, though, for people who had a booster dose. With the added antibodies from a third vaccine dose, blood work showed that they would be able to fight off the omicron variant.

RELATED: CDC 'Strongly Encourages' COVID Vaccine Boosters for All Americans Due to Omicron Variant

The tests are preliminary, not peer-reviewed and may differ from real-world usage, but as the world scrambles to understand the new variant and just how quickly it spreads, the news that Pfizer's current vaccine is effective against omicron comes as a relief.

"Our preliminary, first data set indicate that a third dose could still offer a sufficient level of protection from disease of any severity caused by the Omicron variant," said Dr. Ugur Sahin, the chief executive officer of BioNTech.

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The companies also added that while two doses may not prevent any COVID-19 illness as well as three doses, "vaccinated individuals [with two doses] may still be protected against severe forms of the disease."

And so far, it appears as though omicron produces a less severe illness than delta, regardless of vaccination status. While the variant is likely the most contagious one yet, based on its high number of mutations, the majority of cases have been mild or asymptomatic.

RELATED: New COVID Variant Omicron Appears to Produce 'Mild' Symptoms in Early Cases

"Clearly, in South Africa, omicron has a transmission advantage," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S.'s top infectious disease expert, told CNN. "Although it's too early to make any definitive statements about it, thus far it does not look like there's a great degree of severity to it."

"But we've really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe, or really doesn't cause any severe illness comparable to delta, but thus far the signals are a bit encouraging regarding the severity," he continued.

As health experts work to learn more about omicron, Fauci is urging Americans to get vaccinated or get their booster dose.

"It is absolutely essential that unvaccinated people get vaccinated and the vaccinated people get boosters," he said previously. "We know now clearly that when you get a booster shot ... you dramatically increase the level of protection [you have]."

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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