Omicron Evades mRNA Booster Protection, South African Study Shows

Omicron Evades mRNA Booster Protection, South African Study Shows
Test tubes labeled "COVID-19 Test Positive" are seen in front of displayed words "OMICRON SARS-COV-2" in this illustration taken on Dec. 11, 2021. (Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters)

The Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus is able to evade the protection bestowed by messenger RNA (mRNA) COVID-19 vaccines, such as those from Pfizer and Moderna, a South African study has found.

A study published Tuesday in The Lancet examined some of the first documented breakthrough cases of the highly transmissible Omicron strain, which emerged in South Africa in late October.

Between late November and early December, a group of seven Germans, who had received three vaccine doses, including at least two doses of an mRNA vaccine, visited Cape Town and subsequently experienced symptomatic COVID-19.

None of the individuals reported a history of COVID-19 infection. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

The cases among the group were the first documented breakthrough infections with the Omicron variant in fully vaccinated individuals after receipt of booster vaccine doses, the study notes.

“The presence of this group from Germany presented a unique opportunity to study Omicron breakthrough infections in individuals with mRNA vaccine boosters,” the researchers said.

The authors noted that their findings are limited to “a low number of individuals in relatively young and otherwise healthy individuals.”

“This case series adds further evidence that, as predicted, omicron is able to evade immunity induced by mRNA vaccines in vivo,” the researchers said.

They also said their findings underscore the importance of adopting measures to curb the spread of the virus, such as social distancing and mask-wearing.

COVID-19 vaccines were initially trumpeted as a way to prevent contracting the CCP virus, and officials hoped getting enough people vaccinated would lead to herd immunity, a situation in which the virus would be greatly diminished or even eliminated.

Those hopes haven’t panned out, largely because the vaccines proved increasingly ineffective at preventing infection even before the emergence of the Omicron strain.

Meanwhile, World Health Organization (WHO) officials said on Tuesday that new variants of the novel coronavirus are likely to emerge given current high levels of transmission.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead officer on COVID-19, said at a briefing in Geneva that the Omicron variant is unlikely to be the last strain as the virus is still “circulating at a very intense level” worldwide.

“We’re hearing a lot of people suggest that Omicron is the last variant, that it’s over after this. And that is not the case,” she said.

Van Kerkhove said countries must keep up measures to curb the transmission of the virus to reduce severe disease and deaths, such as wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowded areas.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on Monday that research efforts should now focus on COVID-19 vaccines that can provide broad protection against new strains.

“We don’t want to get into a whack-a-mole for every variant, where you have to make a booster against a particular variant,” he said. “You’ll be chasing it forever.”

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times