Omicron Throws World into Tizzy as 2nd Covid Christmas, NYE Bash Arrives, But All Is Still Not Lost

With Omicron’s fast advancement across the world, health experts have warned the battle against the COVID-19 is far from over. However, there is saving grace. Two drugmakers – AstraZeneca and Novovax – have said that their vaccines protect against Omicron and carry a lower risk of hospitalisation.

Two days before Christmas, the US Federal Drug Administration gave a glimmer of hope, saying that data indicated that both Merck’s and Pfizer’s COVID-19 anti-virals are effective against the coronavirus variant.

Besides, there were encouraging signs too about hospitalisation rates from Britain and South Africa, although the head of a leading African health agency joined the World Health Organization in cautioning that it was too soon to draw broader conclusions.

Novavax Says COVID Vaccine Triggers Immune Response to Omicron Variant

Novavax Inc COVID-19 vaccine is effective in generating an immune response against the Omicron variant, according to early data published on Wednesday,suggesting that the U.S. drugmaker’s existing COVID-19 vaccine can help combat the new Omicron variant.

The drug maker said early data from its booster and adolescent studies showed “broad cross-reactivity” against Omicron and other circulating variants from two shots, and that responses increased with a third dose six months later. In trials, the shot has shown up to 90.4 per cent efficacy.

New results demonstrate broad cross-reactivity against Omicron and other circulating variants from a primary 2-dose regimen, with responses that increased following a third dose at six months.

“In the midst of an evolving pandemic, NVX-CoV2373 showed strong immune responses against Omicron and other circulating variants. We are encouraged that boosted responses against all variants were comparable to those associated with high vaccine efficacy in our Phase 3 clinical trials, suggesting that NVX-CoV2373 can play an important role in the ongoing fight against new variants,” said Gregory M. Glenn, President of Research and Development, Novavax.

“Given the continued evolution of the coronavirus, the development of an Omicron vaccine could be necessary. Novavax has cloned, expressed and characterized the Omicron spike protein vaccine and will soon enter the GMP-phase of production. We expect to begin clinical studies in the first quarter of 2022,” he added.

UK Study Backs AstraZeneca Boosters

A third dose of both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines significantly increased the immune response to the omicron variant, according to a new study by University of Oxford researchers.

The laboratory study, which hasn’t been peer reviewed yet, compared antibody levels in blood samples from people who received two doses of vaccine with samples from those who had received a third dose.

While two doses provided much less protection against omicron than earlier variants, levels of neutralizing antibodies rose sharply after a third dose, the study found.

In summary, neutralisation titres against omicron are boosted following a third vaccine dose, meaning that the campaign to deploy booster vaccines should add considerable protection against omicron infection, the researchers wrote.

The study also found that unvaccinated people who had recovered from COVID-19 probably have little protection from reinfection with omicron, though they may have some protection against serious illness.

Study Finds Covovax COVID Vaccine Made by Serum Institute Can Give Immune Response to Omicron

Drugs Approved to Treat Covid-19 as Omicron Infections Rage

The United States on Wednesday authorized Pfizer Inc’s (PFE.N) antiviral COVID-19 pill for people ages 12 and older at risk of severe illness, the first oral and at-home treatment as well as a new tool against the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Pfizer’s antiviral regimen, Paxlovid, was nearly 90% effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths in patients at high risk of severe illness, according to data from the company’s clinical trial. Recent lab data suggests the drug retains its effectiveness against Omicron, Pfizer said.

Pfizer said it will provide an additional 2.5 million doses of its COVID-19 pill Paxlovid to the United Kingdom. A total of 2.75 million doses of the pill are expected to be delivered to the UK through 2022, the drugmaker said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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