The news arrives after the tenth recorded positive Omicron case in Scotland, which the government has confirmed has no previous connection to the previous nine.
A study published in the Lancet and conducted by Professor Saul Faust, director of the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Facility at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, has studied the effects of third doses of COVID-19 vaccinations. The study suggests that booster vaccines may well offer good protection in the face of the recently discovered Omicron variant.
The research suggested a T cell immune response after a booster shot is strong enough to provide protection against patient hospital admissions and death. The vaccines worked effectively against existing variants, although the Omicron variant was not tested as part of the study. However, it is thought that T cells may play a significant role in fighting the variant. Professor Faust shared that T cell responses “are recognising a much broader range of antigens” which may be present across all variants.
T cells play an essential role in the immune system to target viruses, working alongside antibodies. Faust shared that T cell responses in the study were not only focussed on the spike protein, which is mutated in the Omicron variant suggesting efficacy in combatting new strains of coronavirus.
“All of the vaccines in our study do show a statistically significant boost,” shared Faust. When asked about the new strain, he added that “our hope as scientists is that protection against hospitalisation and death will remain intact”.
The six vaccines tested as a third dose were AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Novavax, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) and CureVac – which has ceased production.
Samples from the study have now been passed to the UK Health Secretary Agency (UKHSA) to examine how effectively the Omicron variant can be neutralised by vaccines.
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