Do Existing Vaccines Work Against Omicron?

By Shantanu Sodhi +2 more

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.

Is Covishield Effective Against Omicron?

In a research, AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine Covishield was effective against the Omicron coronavirus variation after the third treatment, with neutralising levels similar to those shown after a conventional two-dose course against the Delta variant.

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.

How Effective is Covaxin Against Omicron Variant?

According to an official with the Indian Council of Medical Research, Covaxin is anticipated to be more effective against the highly mutating Omicron form than other COVID-19 vaccinations (ICMR).
“Covaxin is an inactivated whole virion vaccine. “It covers the full virus,” the official explained, “so it can operate against this highly modified new form”. “It was previously discovered that Covaxin was effective against all variations, including Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta. As a result, we expect it to work against the new variety as well,” added another ICMR official.

In my experience variants will continue to evolve however due to robust humoral and cell-mediated immune responses elicited by existing vaccines there will be cross protection.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

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. 

If a person is infected with COVID but with an Omicron variant, he or she is less likely to develop a severe COVID infection, although there still is a requirement for a medical advice to appropriately manage the infection.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj, M.B.B.S., M.D.

Omicron Vs Other Variants

We’ve seen five different types of concerns in the last two years: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron. While the first four VOCs were discovered in different regions of the world in 2020, Omicron was discovered in November 2021 in South Africa.

A recent article by Nature pointed out four possible scenarios of how the virus can evolve in the future. 

Scenarios 1: SARS-best CoV-2’s hope – but also the least likely – is to follow in the footsteps of measles. Infection or immunisation confers lifetime immunity and the virus spreads mostly through new births.


Scenarios 2: SARS-CoV-2 following the path of the respiratory syncytial virus is a more realistic, but still hopeful, option (RSV). The majority of persons become infected within the first two years of their lives. RSV is a leading cause of infant hospitalisation, however, most occurrences in children are minor.

Scenarios 3:  The third is coronavirus imitating the influenza A virus and is responsible for global seasonal influenza epidemics each year. New variants are able to evade the immunity elicited by previous strains due to rapid evolution. Seasonal epidemics emerge, as a result, fueled mostly by the transmission of the disease among adults, who can still acquire severe symptoms. The flu vaccine helps to lessen the severity of the illness.

Scenarios 4: But if SARS-CoV-2 evolves to evade immunity more sluggishly, it might come to resemble influenza B. That virus’s slower rate of change, compared with influenza A, means that its transmission is driven largely by infections in children, who have less immunity than adults.

What WHO has said about the next variant?

Last week, a WHO official stated that the next strain of concern will be more fit, i.e., more transmissible because it will have to outcompete the existing strain. “The main question is whether future versions will be more or less severe,” says the author. Although hypotheses abound, there is no guarantee that the following variants will be gentler than the prior ones.

According to the official, the future version of Covid may dodge vaccine safeguards, even more, making existing vaccines for coronavirus even less effective.

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


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.





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