Israeli researchers say that a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine shot is “not good enough” to combat the Omicron strain of the virus.
Prof. Gili Regev-Yochay is one of the lead researchers of a first-in-the-world study on the efficacy of a second booster shot, or fourth vaccine shot, to boost immunity amid the Omicron wave of COVID-19. A month after the study, which took place at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, Regev-Yochay says that the fourth shot falls short.
“The vaccine, which was very effective against the previous strains, is less effective against the Omicron strain,” she said, according to The Times Of Israel.
“We see an increase in antibodies, higher than after the third dose,” she continued. “However, we see many infected with Omicron who received the fourth dose. Granted, a bit less than in the control group, but still a lot of infections.”
“The bottom line is that the vaccine is excellent against the Alpha and Delta [variants], for Omicron it’s not good enough,” she said. Regev-Yochay added that vulnerable people should still probably receive the shot.
Sheba Medical Center issued its own statement on the preliminary results of the study, endorsing “continuing the vaccination drive for risk groups at this time, even though the vaccine doesn’t provide optimal protection against getting infected with the variant.”
Israel is the first country in the world to approve a fourth COVID-19 vaccine shot. Pharmaceutical CEOs have been pushing for similar steps to be taken in the United States. Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla have claimed that a fourth shot will likely be needed because of the spread of Omicron. Bourla said last week that an Omicron-specific vaccine will likely be needed in the end.
“Omicron is a way more challenging target, so the two doses are not enough for Omicron,” Bourla said at the 40th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference on January 10. “The third dose of the current vaccine is providing good protection against death and decent protection against hospitalization. So, most of the people that they are ending up in hospital [with Omicron] aren’t vaccinated. They are not people that they had the vaccine.”
“I think the question mark … is how long that protection lasts with the third dose. We have seen with a second dose very clearly that the first thing that we lost was the protection against infections, which, anyways, is not as good, as robust against infection [than] the third dose for Omicron,” Bourla continued.
“But then, two months later, what used to be very strong in hospitalization also went down. I think this is what everybody’s worried about,” he said. “This is why a lot of authorities here in the U.S., they recommend the fourth dose for those who are immunocompromised.”
Earlier this month, Bancel guessed that multiple booster shots still need to be approved going forward.
“I will be surprised when we get that data in the coming weeks that it’s holding nicely over time — I would expect that it’s not going to hold great,” Bancel said, referring to the protection against COVID-19 awarded by the vaccine. “I still believe we’re going to need boosters in the fall of ’22 and forward.”