Current vaccine boosters protect against Omicron, says Fauci

Data shows no need for variant-specific vaccines, says Biden’s chief medical adviser

Vaccine makers do not need to make a new inoculation targeted at the Omicron coronavirus variant, according to Anthony Fauci, after data showed that booster shots of existing jabs continue to offer protection.

Dr Fauci, the chief medical adviser to US president Joe Biden released data on Wednesday that showed a third dose of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine boosted antibody levels well above the threshold needed to neutralise the virus.

The data added to growing evidence that a third dose of the vaccines made by both BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna offered significant protection, even against the heavily mutated strain.

"The early in vitro and clinical studies . . . indicate that boosters reconstitute the antibody titers and enhance the vaccine protection against Omicron," Dr Fauci said at the White House.


He added: “Our booster vaccine regimens work against Omicron. At this point, there is no need for a variant-specific booster.”

Dr Fauci's comments were the most definitive rebuttal yet to the idea that a variant-specific vaccine might be the only way to combat Omicron, which was first detected in Botswana and South Africa and is ripping through the UK and Denmark.

Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are studying whether a variant-specific vaccine might be needed and have begun work to develop such a jab.

On Wednesday, Dr Fauci presented data from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases showing that a third dose of Moderna’s vaccine boosted antibody levels by more than 20 times when tested in a laboratory.

The findings added to research from BioNTech/Pfizer, which showed a booster shot increases antibody levels 25 times.

The data also suggested that a two-dose regimen was effective at keeping people out of hospital. Discovery Health, the largest private health provider in South Africa, said this week that two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine were 70 per cent effective at preventing hospitalisation.

US officials reiterated the message that people should get vaccinated and boosted to protect themselves against Covid-19, noting that unvaccinated individuals were 14 times more likely to die from the virus.

The warning came days after the US passed 800,000 Covid deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Rochelle Walensky, head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Wednesday that the new strain accounted for about 4 per cent of the country's infections and as much as 13 per cent in New York and New Jersey. But experts expected it to become the dominant variant within weeks.

Government data showed that just 61 per cent of Americans were fully vaccinated, significantly below the levels in many other developed nations. Just over 27 per cent of the population has received a booster dose. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021