Supporters of mandatory vaccination and vaccine passports may have a tough decision lying ahead for them after BioNTech, the company partnered with Pfizer on one of the two main novel gene therapy messenger RNA injections globally distributed, said a booster shot is needed now to protect against the Omicron variant in addition to a three dose Omicron-specific vaccine set to be deployed in March.
The comments were made by CEO Ugur Sahin during a Dec. 8 press conference held by BioNTech and Pfizer after the partners issued a same day press release that stated internal studies showed a booster of the existing BNT162b mRNA injection provides “more than a 25-fold reduction in neutralization titers” against Omicron.
The release came just one day following a study published by South African researchers funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. National Institutes of Health which found that Omicron evades Pfizer vaccine-generated antibodies by a factor of 41 unless the patient also has natural immunity derived from a previous infection.
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Sahin’s statements were unambiguous, “Particularly with the data now coming for the Omicron variant, it is very clear, our vaccine for the Omicron variant should be a three dose vaccine.”
When asked by a reporter if people should get a booster now or wait for the Omicron specific injection, Sahin said, “The answer for that is in our eyes very clear…The data we have clearly indicates the value of a third dose.”
Pfizer and BioNTech have both stated they can have an Omicron-specific vaccine ready within the next one hundred days, and the new press release gives March of 2022 as the estimated time frame.
But Sahin cautioned that even if manufacturing is able to meet this timeframe, the amount available for distribution in the first round would be limited to 25 to 75 million doses, far less needed than the more-than 21 billion required to triple inject the entire world.
Novavax, a U.S.-based company that creates a protein subunit vaccine, which directly injects spike proteins grown on the bodies of genetically engineered months and combined with a proprietary saponin-based adjuvant extracted from the soapbark tree, said it could get an Omicron-specific vaccine up and running as early as the next few weeks in Nov. 26 comments to Reuters.
Despite Novavax receiving $1.6 billion in funding through Operation Warp Speed, the company’s wares took a backseat to the Moderna and Pfizer mRNA and Johnson & Johnson adenovirus vector gene therapy variants.
Sahin’s statements have led to the interpretation that fully vaccinated status for vaccine passport holders and countries with mandatory vaccination edicts may quickly evolve into a six dose regime, with an immediate two dose plus booster course being required now in addition to the soon-to-arrive three dose Omicron-specific injection being mandated later.
Austria, a country that has recently imposed a proper vaccine mandate on all eligible citizens on penalty of a $7,200 Euro fine and/or four months imprisonment, has openly stated that both the number and frequency of additional injections required to maintain fully vaccinated status will be determined by the Minister of Health.
The edict is set to come into effect in February.
According to the government of Botswana, Omicron was first discovered in four fully vaccinated diplomats from an undisclosed country on Nov. 11. The sequencing on the positive test revealing the new variant was not completed until Nov. 24.
The press release, dated Nov. 26, said the diplomats “since left the country” and that contact tracing associated with the group came back with no additional infections.