Monday, January 17

Omicron: Therefore, booster dose may be the rescue

CORONA: The Omikron virus has many changes and can lead to more admissions. But a booster dose will be able to get us through the winter, says the expert.

A rapid omicron spread can make many people sick. But a booster dose will be able to slow down infection and get us through the winter, believes vaccine expert.


On Tuesday night, the government announced several new corona tightenings due to pressure on hospitals and a confusing omikron situation. Night to Wednesday, the infection record both nationally and for Oslo was broken, with 5143 and 1117 new cases of infection.

There is still a lot you do not know about the omikron variant. The vaccines may not work well – but a booster dose will be able to correct it:

– When you have received the third dose, you not only have more antibodies, but also antibodies that bind better to new varieties. The third dose seems to give you qualitatively better antibodies that provide broader protection, says immunologist Fridtjof Lund-Johansen to VG.

In other words, there will be a significant difference in protection with two and three doses.

He told VG on Monday that booster dose is the best and least intrusive measure against omicron.

EXPERT: Fridtjof Lund-Johansen in his laboratory at Oslo University Hospital.

In the laboratory at Oslo University Hospital, he researches the effect of vaccines on the various variants. When they studied the beta variant, formerly known as the South African variant, they saw that a third dose significantly increased protection:

– They neutralize better. You also sharpen the immune response against variants that the vaccine is not really made against.

The antibodies bind more strongly with the booster

Therefore, he believes that one can say with quite great certainty that even a booster dose will help with omicron – even though there are more changes there than one has seen before.

The concern about the new variant is that there are many changes to the spike protein, ie the tags that protrude from the coronavirus. It is the nail protein that is important for how well the virus manages to bind to cells in the body and thus infect you.

The vaccine is based on the original wuhan variant, which means that we have antibodies against this variant. Due to all the changes in the omicron, the new virus will be able to detect many of the antibodies we have formed after two doses.

But with three doses, the picture changes, and probably also towards the omicron, he says:

– I think a third dose makes the antibodies bind stronger. There will be some places on the omikron where it will not be able to bind. But I think we still want antibodies that cover enough places that make it slow the virus from binding to the cells. I think a third dose will do that.

In vaccinated people, the antibodies are the body’s first line. The most important of these are called neutralizing antibodies, which get rid of the virus in the throat or nose before it takes root in the body. This prevents you from becoming infected.

The effect of antibodies is also reduced over time. In fact, a lot, says Lund-Johansen:

In the first three months, there is a huge decrease in antibody levels. After three months, many have lost over 90 percent of the antibodies they had just after vaccination.

Protection against serious illness intact

The body has also received another protection through the vaccine which is not just antibodies. Because even if they are reduced, one will be able to be well protected against serious disease through other parts of the immune system.

In part, it is about memory cells that quickly divide and produce antibodies when re-infected. In addition, T cells kill virus-infected cells.

The memory cells are important in the phase after the virus has infected you and entered the cells of the body.

It takes some time from the time you become infected until you get a serious illness, so if you are able to mobilize this part of the immune system in that time window, then it will protect against serious illness.

Booster can reduce disease burden

If the omicron variant were to prove to cause more serious illness, the disease burden could be significantly greater as so many are expected to be infected with the variant, FHI writes in its latest risk report.

And that is why Lund-Johansen believes a booster dose is important: Both to give the elderly better protection against serious illness, but also because young healthy people who get a booster get more antibodies that make them spread less.

It will reduce the overall disease burden.

Can get us through the winter

FHI writes in its risk report that the antibody levels will fall after a few months, also for the third dose. Lund-Johansen says it is true, but that the response you get after the third dose is much stronger after two doses.

– I think the effect of the third dose on preventing this is greatest in a month or two after you have received the vaccine. Then you have very high levels of neutralizing antibodies. And the duration of that period is longer after the third, because you start with a higher level.

– Can a booster get us through the winter?

– Absolutely. Not one hundred percent, but I think it will reduce infection dramatically.

VG spoke this weekend with an Israeli omicron-infected doctor, who had received three vaccine doses. He had 60 close contacts and infected one, which he believes supports the need for a booster dose for everyone.

On Friday, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin, who developed the Pfizer vaccine, said that he believes a booster dose will provide better protection against serious illness and perhaps also against mild and moderate disease with omicron.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *