Cellular immunity elicited by existing Covid-19 vaccines can fight the Omicron Covid variant, according to a study.
The yet to be peer-reviewed study, which focussed on Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson’s Covid shots, showed that vaccines will protect against severe disease even if the antibody responses against the strain are not as strong or durable, the Financial Times reported.
“These data suggest that current vaccines may provide considerable protection against severe disease with the Sars-Cov-2 Omicron variant despite the substantial reduction of neutralising antibody responses,” the researchers from Harvard medical school wrote in the study.
Previous evidence suggests that the existing vaccines lose antibody response when pitted against Omicron.
A third shot at least partially restores that antibody protection, and countries have been racing to scale up their booster programmes to avoid new restrictions.
But vaccines are still expected to protect against severe disease, and health authorities have said they would closely examine evidence such as the one contained in the new study to decide whether a switch to Omicron-targeted vaccines is necessary, the report said.
Early findings from studies in South Africa, the US, and the UK suggest that Omicron spreads faster but appears to be milder than previous variants. However, it is not clear yet if this is because of the variant itself, or because most of the world has either been infected or vaccinated, or a combination of the two factors.
However, scientists have said that its high transmissibility, coupled with uneven vaccine coverage, could still mean health systems worldwide come under pressure as many more people get infected.
The World Health Organisation has repeatedly called for a more equitable distribution of vaccines. The global health body has set a target of 70 per cent coverage in all nations by mid-2022.