Vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and BioNTech have announced that two doses of their Covid-19 vaccine provide significant protection against the rapidly spreading omicron variant and that a supplemental booster shot was found to “neutralize” the mutated pathogen, based on blood tests that they conducted from individuals who had received second and third injections.

“Preliminary laboratory studies demonstrate that three doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine neutralize the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529 lineage) while two doses show significantly reduced neutralization titers,” the pharmaceutical giants said in a press release. “Data indicate that a third dose of BNT162b2 increases the neutralizing antibody titers by 25-fold compared to two doses against the Omicron variant; titers after the booster dose are comparable to titers observed after two doses against the wild-type virus which are associated with high levels of protection.”

The companies also said that they anticipate that an omicron-specific inoculation could be available by March 2022.

Pfizer Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said that “although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the Omicron strain, it’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine. Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two-dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

BioNTech CEO and Co-Founder Ugur Sahin, M.D. added that “our preliminary, first dataset indicates that a third dose could still offer a sufficient level of protection from disease of any severity caused by the Omicron variant. Broad vaccination and booster campaigns around the world could help us to better protect people everywhere and to get through the winter season. We continue to work on an adapted vaccine which, we believe, will help to induce a high level of protection against Omicron-induced COVID-19 disease as well as a prolonged protection compared to the current vaccine.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and President Joe Biden‘s chief medical advisor, urged caution.

“We shouldn’t be making any definitive conclusions, certainly not before the next couple of weeks,” he said at a White House press briefing on Tuesday.

Fauci also gave reason for optimism, adding that “we are not seeing a very severe profile of disease. It might be, and I underscore might, be less severe, as shown by the ratio of hospitalizations per number of new cases.”

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