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Do Existing Vaccines Work Against Omicron?

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This article has been medically reviewed and fact-checked by Dr. Nikita Toshi

Most of the current COVID-19 vaccines have been found effective against the previous variants so far. However, over 30 mutations have been reported in the new Omicron variant. Mutations are responsible for bringing about the changes in the nature of the virus hence the question of the effectiveness of existing COVID-19 vaccines against the new variant- Omicron has arisen.

The World Health Organization has designated omicron as a “variant of concern,” adding that it can pose a very high global risk. [1]
In this article, we will see what existing vaccination options we have available at the moment and how effective, if at all, will they be against Omicron, the latest variant of COVID-19.

Omicron and Covishield

Adar Poonawala, CEO of Serum Institute of India (maker of Covishield vaccine), mentioned that studies are underway at the moment and the effectiveness of the Covishield vaccine with the Omicron variant can only be studied properly during the next 2-3 weeks. He further added that it’s too early to draw conclusions about the extent of the seriousness of the newly discovered Omicron, a variant that the WHO has designated with the Variant of Concern title.

In an interview with NDTV, Poonawala mentioned that a booster dose is possible specifically for the Omicron variant, however, the priority should be to get every citizen double vaccinated first.

Also Read: Is Covishield Effective Against Omicron?

Omicron and Covaxin

Experts suggest that Covaxin could possibly be highly effective against the Omicron variant as it is a ‘whole virion inactivated coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). However, we need to wait for some more time to get concrete evidence to support this.

Also Read: How Effective is Covaxin Against Omicron Variant?

BioNTech and Pfizer on Omicron

The Pfizer vaccine will offer strong protection against any severe symptom caused by Omicron, Reuters quoted BioNTech’s, Chief Executive Officer. Speaking to the BBC recently, Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s CEO, said he is of the view getting vaccinated every year may be the way to offer a “very high level of protection” against the deadly disease that has reportedly caused upwards of five million casualties across the world.

The company is said to be updating their jab in response to Omicron, which could be ready in a short time, possibly 100 days. At the end of this year, Pfizer is expected to have supplied about three billion doses of their mRNA vaccine. The plan for next year stands at 4 billion. 

Also Read: Omicron Vs Other Variants

Sputnik and Omicron

The Gamaleya Institute believes both versions, Sputnik V and Sputnik Light, will be effective at neutralising the Omicron variant. The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), made a statement recently about the same, the RDIF was a key supporter of the vaccine development at the state-run Gamaleya Center. In the statement, they said that the centre “has already begun developing the new version of Sputnik vaccine adapted to Omicron.”

Johnson & Johnson and Omicron

Johnson & Johnson mentioned on their website that it is pursuing an Omicron-specific variant vaccine and will continue to work if need be. “The new Omicron variant highlights the importance of continued surveillance, testing and vaccination to prevent hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19,” said Dr Mathai Mammen, global head for Janssen Research & Development LLC, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

“We remain confident in the robust humoral and cell-mediated immune responses elicited by the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated by the durability and breadth of protection against variants to date in clinical studies.” [2]

Also Read: Omicron Variant: Latest News & Updates

Conclusion

As of now, there is no evidence to support the thought that existing vaccines will be ineffective or less effective against the Omicron variant. As the WHO recommends, we need to continue to use vaccination as our best bet against severe illness and lower the risk of death due to COVID-19. With enough people vaccinated, the virus that is causing this pandemic will have fewer hosts. Fewer hosts mean not only fewer people getting sick, but also fewer opportunities for the virus to evolve and change. Let’s all work together to keep following the pandemic safety measures and we can eventually be safe from the virus once and for all. We need to be vigilant, but not only due to the Omicron variant. Simple actions like wearing a mask in public, maintaining social distance and regularly washing hands will help us to meaningfully lower our risk of catching this disease. 

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Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

References

[1]-https://www.who.int/news/item/26-11-2021-classification-of-omicron-(b.1.1.529)-sars-cov-2-variant-of-concern
[2]-https://www.jnj.com/johnson-johnson-to-evaluate-its-covid-19-vaccine-against-new-omicron-covid-19-variant

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