Pfizer vs. Omicron: Does The Vaccine Provide Protection Against The New Variant?

The omicron variant has already been detected in 19 U.S. states. With its arrival comes the risk of many people getting infected with COVID-19, including those vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. New research is shedding light on the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine — one of the three brands distributed in the country — against the latest variant of concern. 

States With Omicron

Although the travel restrictions were expected to delay the entry and spread of omicron in the U.S., omicron managed to penetrate the country just weeks after the new strain emerged. The New York Times Omicron tracker already listed 19 states with the mutated virus in its latest update. The different states are as follows:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in an interview with ABC News over the weekend that now that omicron has entered the country, it’s only a matter of time until it spreads in more places. 

“We know we have, you know, several dozen cases, and we're following them closely, and we are every day hearing about more and more probable cases. So that number is likely to rise,” she said. 

Vaccination In The US

The latest figures presented by Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker showed that more than 8.23 billion shots have been administered worldwide amid the pandemic. In the U.S., more than 462 million doses have been administered so far. 

Even though the vaccination campaign in the country recently slowed down, health experts were still able to record an average of 745,169 doses administered per day in the previous week. As of late, more than half of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated. However, many counties are still lagging, making them vulnerable to the threats of the newer strains, especially omicron. 

Pfizer vs. Omicron

Pfizer is one of the three brands distributed in the country as part of the nationwide vaccination campaign, alongside Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. New research from South Africa, where the omicron variant was first detected, showed that omicron appears to dull the protection provided by the Pfizer vaccine. 

According to the scientists who conducted the study, they found that the antibodies provided by the Pfizer vaccine were less successful in preventing the omicron variant from infecting cells compared to the other strains of COVID-19, the New York Times reported. 

The findings were somewhat worrisome, but the scientists said there was no reason to panic. The vaccine stimulates a wide-ranging immune response that involves more than just antibodies.

Alex Sigal of the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, who led the study, told CNN Tuesday that people who have been previously infected with COVID-19 and then vaccinated are well protected against omicron. 

“Previous infection, followed by vaccination or booster, is likely to increase the neutralization level and likely confer protection from severe disease in omicron infection,” Sigal and his team wrote in their report. 

The study was the first to directly examine how the omicron virus might behave in the presence of the Pfizer vaccine. Moving forward, Sigal and his team plan to test the behavior of the new variant of concern against the other brands and types of vaccines available in South Africa.

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