Pfizer says new booster shot increases omicron-fighting antibodies – The Washington Post



By Carolyn Y. Johnson

Updated November 4, 2022 at 12:30 p.m. EDT|Published November 4, 2022 at 6:45 a.m. EDT

Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, announced Friday that their updated coronavirus booster shot targeting the omicron variant succeeded in strengthening the body’s army of disease-fighting antibodies, even as questions persist about the vaccine’s continued effectiveness against a swarm of later-generation versions of omicron.

The findings reinforce the public health message that the new bivalent boosters, which were rebooted in September to match newer omicron subvariants, could help protect people this fall and winter.

Pfizer presented the data in a news release, and it has not been peer reviewed or published.

The news release does not directly address a concern raised by small studies over the last week that immune-evading variants that have recently emerged and are quickly taking over appear to be far better at eluding the virus-fighting antibodies generated by the booster.

One of the most threatening new variants gaining ground in the United States, BQ.1.1, is related to BA.5, a component of the new booster, so Marks said he was hopeful the bivalent vaccine would hold up, particularly against severe illness and hospitalization.

The new vaccine strengthened BA.4/BA.5-blocking antibody levels over pre-booster levels in adults of all ages — a 9.5-fold increase in adults younger than 55, and a 13.2-fold increase in older adults.

Some scientists have argued that a 10-fold increase from baseline would probably be clinically meaningful, and the Pfizer vaccine triggered a change of that magnitude in adults.

In adults older than 55, the new booster provoked a stronger immune response against BA.4 and BA.5 than the original booster, although it was unclear whether the difference, measured in laboratory tests, would provide a meaningful difference in how well people were protected.

It was unclear if the new shot also provoked a stronger response than the old booster in younger adult, because there was no comparison group of younger adults that received the original shot.

By Carolyn Y. JohnsonCarolyn Johnson is a science reporter. She previously covered the business of health and the affordability of health care to consumers. Twitter


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