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Pfizer and his German partner BioNTech On Thursday, their new omicron boosters said protective antibodies against the dominant adult omicron BA.5 subvariant were substantially increased in the first direct human data released to the public on the new vaccines.
The study looked at blood samples taken from 40 people aged 18 to 55 and 40 people over the age of 55 who received the Omicron booster vaccine. Both age groups saw significant increases in antibodies that block the BA.5 subvariant from entering human cells, according to the companies.
Pfizer also compared 40 people over the age of 55 who received the Omicron booster shot to 40 people of the same age who received a fourth dose of the first-generation vaccine. Participants who received the first-generation vaccine saw a limited rise in antibodies to BA.5, according to the companies.
The time between administration of the third dose and the Omicron booster was approximately 11 months, while the time between the third dose and the fourth dose of the first-generation vaccine was six months.
The initial data suggests that the safety profile of the new boosters is identical to that of the original vaccine, the companies said. Pfizer and BioNTech said they will release more data on the immune response to the vaccines in the coming weeks.
“These early data suggest that our bivalent vaccine is expected to provide better protection against currently circulating variants than the original vaccine and may help stem future increases in cases this winter,” said Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, in an explanation.
US health authorities have approved Pfizer’s Omicron boosters for everyone ages 5 and older. The shots target both the BA.5 sub-variant and the original version of Covid, which first appeared in China almost three years ago. The first generation vaccinations were only developed against the first virus strain.
White House health officials have said the new shots should offer much better protection against Omicron than the first-generation vaccines as the country faces a possible winter surge. First-generation vaccines no longer provide meaningful protection against infections and minor illnesses because the virus has mutated so severely.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the Omicron syringes without direct human data on how they fare against Omicron BA.5, which currently causes most infections in the US. The agency instead relied on human data from a similar shot developed by Pfizer against the original version of Omicron called the BA.1, as well as data from animal studies that directly examined how the shots compared to the BA.5.
The FDA acted quickly to release the syringes this fall to stave off a wave of infections. As a result, Pfizer didn’t have time to collect data from clinical trials. dr Peter Marks, head of the FDA vaccines division, said the agency approved the Omicron shots using the same process used to update flu shots each year, which is also not usually based on human data.
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