Is a Booster Dose Needed to Fight Omicron?

With Omicron anticipated to be the dominant COVID-19 variant before Christmas in the UK, health experts are advising those eligible to get a third dose of the vaccine to boost protection from symptomatic infections.  

According to a recent report in The Guardian, new studies have found that a third booster dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine raised the level of protection from symptomatic Omicron infection to 70 to 75 percent.  Data collected by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) also suggests that people who have received two doses of either UK vaccine more than 25 weeks ago have far lower protection against symptomatic infection with Omicron than with Delta. 

Health experts in the UK are seeing Omicron infections doubling every two to three days, and if Omicron is as virulent as Delta, the health system may be overwhelmed quickly.  Although it is too early to know if Omicron causes less severe disease than Delta, initial findings suggest that three doses of the Pfizer vaccine are likely to protect against infection with the Omicron variant.  

Pfizer is planning to develop an updated Omicron-based vaccine by March 2022 if needed. As more data on the new variant is gathered over the next two to six weeks, vaccine makers will decide if an Omicron-specific or hybrid Omicron/Delta vaccine is warranted.  Scientists agree that the current vaccines, with a third jab, will provide protection against severe disease and death resulting from Omicron infection. 

In Canada, experts strongly recommend a booster coronavirus vaccine for adults over the age of 50.  Early data suggests that although two doses of Pfizer may still offer protection from severe illness with Omicron, infection can still occur and people may pass the virus along to others.  Unvaccinated people and those with weakened immune systems could still be at risk for severe infection, according to Global News. 

While more information about Omicron is collected, the World Health Organization (WHO) stresses the importance of assuring that everyone who has not had access to the initial series of vaccines receive their shots.  Learn more about the “Variant of Concern Omicron” by following this link to the most recent WHO weekly epidemiological update on COVID-19.