New Pfizer Booster Shot Shows Protection Against Emerging Omicron Variants

In early data, new Pfizer COVID-19 boosters marshal antibodies against newer omicron variants

HealthDay News — The updated Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots are proving their mettle against emerging omicron variants, the company announced Friday. The findings from the study were posted on a preprint server online and have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The latest version of the vaccine generated virus-fighting antibodies against 4 more omicron lineages, including the troubling BQ.1.1 variant. Notably, the immune response was not as strong against these newer variants as it is against the BA.5 strain. But adults 55 years and older experienced a nearly ninefold jump in antibodies against BQ.1.1 a month after receiving the updated booster. That is compared with a twofold rise in people who got another dose of the original vaccine.

The preliminary data have not yet been vetted by independent experts, but Moderna also recently announced early evidence that its updated booster generated antibodies against BQ.1.1. It is too soon to know how much real-world protection such antibody boosts translate into, or how long it will last.

After dominating the country for months, the BA.5 variant is now responsible for only 30% of new cases, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The BQ.1.1. variant now accounts for 24 percent of cases, up from 2% in early October, while its close cousin BQ.1 accounts for 20% of cases.

Updated boosters are available for anyone 5 years or older, but only about 35 million Americans have gotten one so far, according to the CDC. Nearly 30% of seniors are up-to-date with the newest booster, but only about 13% of all adults are.

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