On December 11, 2020, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was approved for its first public use. Since that day, there have been multiple variants of the virus, varying in their mutations from the original strain. One of these strains, in particular, is the Omicron variant. This variant is a new strain of COVID-19 and was first identified on November 24, 2021, in Botswana. With the emergence of this new unknown variant, in addition to all of the past variants, has the time come for an updated vaccine that is tailored specifically to the variants? This question is explored in the Bloomberg article Third Pfizer-BioNTech Dose Is Ket To Fight Omicron’s Spread.
After researching the Omicron variant in relation to two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, there was seen to be a 25% reduction in antibodies capable of fighting the virus. However, after a third dose of the vaccine, increased antibody levels close to that of those made for the original COVID-19 strain. With this information in mind, Pfizer stated that an Omicron-specific vaccine may be required. This new vaccine is projected to be ready for the public by March of 2022. The company also stated that their vaccine would change from a two-dose to a three-dose vaccine with the third shot being for Omicron. The third shot would be administered about three months after the first two doses have been given.
While the public is waiting for the third dose from Pfizer, Pfizer says that people should use their current vaccine for a third dose, as it would give further protection against the virus. Then, once the Omicron vaccine comes out in early 2022, people should get a dose of that vaccine as well. This new strategy of getting the vaccine is due to new research from multiple labs on the effectiveness of the vaccine on the Omicron variant. An original observation saw a 25 times drop in antibodies, but two other labs found that there is actually a 40 times reduction with this variant. Globally, South Africa found a 41 times drop in antibodies, and a 37 times drop from a German lab. With this research, Pfizer is beginning to look into an Omicron vaccine but must find that it heavily increases protection against the new variant, and if not it will keep the current vaccine in circulation. There is also speculation about a yearly booster for the vaccine, but there must be research conducted on that as well.