On Wednesday, Dec. 8, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said that "symptoms of the Omicron variant, initially detected in South Africa and subsequently in several European countries, are 'milder' although it is possible that this new variant may be transmitted more rapidly."
Bourla's comment came after the company announced via a statement that three doses of its coronavirus vaccine could neutralize the new variant.
"Three doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine neutralize the Omicron variant, while two doses show significantly reduced neutralization titers," the drugmaker said.
The company reached this conclusion after conducting a study where the efficacy of the vaccine was analyzed in a group of people who received full vaccination. The results of this research concluded that with two administered doses of the vaccine, protection was 25 times lower against Omicron compared to other variants.
Scientists have speculated that the high jump in antibodies that comes with a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines may be enough to offset any decrease in effectiveness. However, Pfizer and BioNTech are already working to create an Omicron-specific vaccine should it be needed.
Regarding this new finding, President Joe Biden, said via Twitter that "Pfizer's new data on the efficacy of the Omicron vaccine is encouraging. It reinforces what my medical advisors have been emphasizing: that boosters give you the best protection yet."
Researchers in South Africa on Tuesday published a preliminary study showing that the Omicron variant partly escapes the protection offered by the Pfizer vaccine, but people who have been previously infected and then vaccinated are likely to be well protected.
The study is based on analysis of the effects of this variant on blood samples from 12 people previously vaccinated in South Africa with the Pfizer vaccine and was conducted by specialists at the African Health Research Institute (AHRI).
"The South African laboratory research strongly suggests that the Omicron variant of SARS-COV-2 escapes antibody immunity induced by the Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) vaccine, but that people who were both vaccinated and previously infected retain considerable immunity," the AHRI said in presenting the report.