Do We Need an Omicron-Specific Vaccine?

Omicron tore through the world, but an Omicron-specific shot may not be necessary

(RxWiki News) The Omicron variant spread through the world like wildfire. Does that mean we need an Omicron-specific vaccine?

According to early research, a vaccine that specifically targets the Omicron variant may not be more helpful than the existing vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

Since it was identified in November of 2021, the Omicron variant has infected millions of people around the world. Scientists quickly realized that the variant was much more transmissible than previous variants. Fortunately, it also appeared to cause less severe illness in many cases.

Still, the rapid spike in COVID-19 cases due to Omicron led to an increase in deaths overall, and it put massive strain on hospital systems. This led some public health officials to wonder whether we might need a vaccine that is specific to the Omicron variant.

Both Pfizer and Moderna set out to study vaccines that were specific to Omicron. These studies in human beings are still ongoing, but earlier studies in animals are beginning to yield results.

It's important to remember that animal studies are not as reliable as studies in humans. Still, the results from animal studies can suggest the likely outcomes in humans.

And the results so far suggest that a vaccine specific to the Omicron variant may not be more effective than a third dose of the existing COVID-19 vaccines, although both versions produced a robust immune response in several animal studies.

In a way, that may be good news because it suggests that the existing and currently authorized booster shots provide an effective immune shield against many instances of infection with Omicron.

The results of the human studies may alter the takeaways that these animal studies seem to suggest, but for now, health officials continue to recommend vaccination, boosting, masking and social distancing as key ways to prevent COVID-19 infection and spread, regardless of currently circulating variants.

If you have questions about COVID-19 or vaccines, reach out to your health care provider.

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Review Date: 
February 17, 2022