Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that initial lab tests show that the omicron variant partly escapes protection offered by the companies' two-dose regimen of their COVID-19 vaccine.
However, those same lab tests show that those who had received a booster dose of the vaccine are well protected against the new concerning variant.
In a press release, the companies noted that the initial lab tests showed that those who only received the initial two doses of their COVID-19 vaccine saw a 25-fold drop in antibodies against omicron. They noted that the results show that two doses might not offer sufficient protection against the variant.
The companies also said that those who received a booster dose of their vaccine were protected against omicron to roughly the same levels that two doses protected against the original strain of the coronavirus.
"Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the Omicron strain, it's clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine," Albert Bourla, Pfizer's chairman and CEO, said in a press release. "Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19."
The omicron variant was first identified by scientists in South Africa late last month. The new variant contains dozens of mutations from the original strain of COVID-19, and scientists fear it could be more contagious than other previous strains. It's confirmed to have arrived in more than a dozen U.S. states.
Recently, Bourla told The Wall Street Journal that Pfizer could have an omicron-specific vaccine ready by March if needed.