The Omicron variant has prompted health experts to reconsider vaccination plans. Here is what scientists expect in the coming months.
As new COVID-19 variants emerge, vaccines continue to be the most efficient way of protecting ourselves against the virus. Does this mean that we’ll be needing boosters in the near future? It all depends on a few factors.
For the time being, the third COVID-19 shot is becoming more and more necessary, but it’s not clear how long this protection will last. As more Omicron data becomes available, some researchers are theorizing that a fourth shot will be necessary sooner than expected, within a shorter timeframe than six months, which was the length of immunity for the initial round of vaccines.
“When we see real-world data, it will determine if the Omicron is well covered by the third dose and for how long. And the second point, I think we will need a fourth dose,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC. “With Omicron we need to wait and see because we have very little information. We may need it faster.”
With the data that’s available on Omicron, it appears like the more shots people have the better. The variant is better equipped to avoid protection from vaccines, even if two shots can still protect you from severe disease.
A study from South Africa showed that two dosages provided 70% protection against hospitalization and 33% protection against infection from the Omicron variant.
Researchers are also wondering if Omicron will need a specific vaccine, which could be ready by March 2022. There’s still not enough data available, but current numbers on the Omicron variant suggest that it’s significantly different from the Beta and Delta variants, which were protected further by the vaccine.
Despite the stress of COVID-19 boosters for the foreseeable future, vaccinations will not be the only tools used to battle the virus. Antiviral pills are in development, which could be used to treat severe and mild infections, or to treat COVID-19 when patients are immunocompromised or have an underlying disorder they must account for. According to ABC News, antiviral pills should be consumed as soon as symptoms start showing, having a relatively small window of efficacy.