Commentary

 By Abby Liebing  December 16, 2021 at 4:14pm

With the new omicron variant of COVID, everyone began to question just how effective the vaccines would be against this new strain.

In a new study from South Africa however, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not seem promising, according to Bloomberg’s reporting.

Penny Moore, a South African virologist, outlined how lab experiments were run in blood plasma samples from people who had been vaccinated with either the Pfizer or J&J vaccine.

“Omicron does indeed exhibit substantial immune escape from antibodies,” Moore said. “The situation, I think, is even more alarming for the J&J vaccine — there was no detectable neutralization in our assay.”

When omicron first appeared, J&J was quick to jump into research to test the effectiveness of vaccines against the new variant, but now, the J&J vaccine is showing the greatest weakness.

“The new omicron variant highlights the importance of continued surveillance, testing and vaccination to prevent hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. We remain confident in the robust humoral and cell-mediated immune responses elicited by the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated by the durability and breadth of protection against variants to date in clinical studies,” Dr. Mathai Mammen, head of research and development said at the end of November.

However, though the J&J vaccine shows almost no antibody protection against the omicron, it might have some defense through other means, such as stimulation of immune cells, NDTV News reported.

But though J&J is showing the greatest lack, other research and studies have shown that all the other vaccines have issues with omicron, too.

Should there be more research done before boosters are pushed?

“All three U.S.-authorized COVID-19 vaccines appear to be significantly less protective against the newly-detected omicron variant of the coronavirus in laboratory testing,” Reuters reported after research was conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard and MIT.

That study discovered “low to absent” antibody neutralization of the variant from the regular regimens of all the major vaccines — the two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines or one of J&J’s single-dose vaccine.

There is evidence, though, that a booster might be effective against omicron.

Reuters reported that the study found that “blood from recent recipients of an additional booster dose exhibited potent neutralization of the variant.”

The promising news for the J&J vaccine is that, though tests are showing it may not be very effective against omicron, no one in the study has died after being infected with omicron, as NDTV reported.

In the midst of all these studies, the predominant message seems to be that boosters will be suggested for protecting against the omicron variant.

“What these results are telling us is that if omicron becomes a dominant variant, it’s going to become even more important that people get their boost,” David Montefiori, a virologist at Duke University, said, as NPR reported.

Many keep saying how dangerous the omicron variant is, but there is also still much unknown about this new variant.

“Considerable uncertainties surround omicron, first detected last month in southern Africa and Hong Kong,” Reuters reported.

Yet there is already a push for boosters.

Perhaps there just needs to be more time to study the omicron variant before boosters and treatments are pushed and advertised.

Abby Liebing is a Hillsdale College graduate with a degree in history. She has written for various outlets and enjoys covering foreign policy issues and culture.

Abby Liebing is a Hillsdale College graduate with a degree in history. She has written for various outlets and enjoys covering foreign policy issues and culture.

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