Fauci: No need for modified vaccine for omicron at this point
Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that at this point there is no need for a modified vaccine specifically to fight the omicron variant, instead urging people to get a booster shot of the existing vaccine.
“Our booster vaccine regimens work against omicron,” Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said at a press briefing. “At this point there is no need for a variant-specific booster.”
Vaccine makers like Pfizer said that they had started work on a modified vaccine for omicron soon after it was discovered in case it was needed, and that it could be available in less than 100 days. But as more data has emerged, there have been some reassuring signs about the effectiveness of three doses of the existing vaccines against omicron, though protection from two doses significantly falls off.
Not having to implement a new vaccine could eliminate many logistical and supply hurdles to the vaccination effort.
Fauci said the omicron variant “undoubtedly compromises the effects” of two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines in preventing infection with the omicron variant. Effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine with two doses fell to just 33 percent in a South African study, though there was better protection against severe disease, at 70 percent.
Early studies have shown much stronger protection after three doses, though. Early data from the UK showed effectiveness against infection with three doses rose back to 75 percent, from about 30 percent after two doses.
“The message remains clear: If you are unvaccinated, get vaccinated and particularly in the arena of omicron, if you are fully vaccinated, get your booster shot,” Fauci said.
The White House has emphasized boosters as the main response to omicron, repeatedly saying they do not want to implement business closures.
Only about one in four fully vaccinated Americans has received a booster shot so far, though, according to CDC data, though the number is higher among the elderly, where there is a particular focus in reaching more people quickly.