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Early lab study suggests Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine may partially protect against Omicron – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Dec 7 (Reuters) – The Omicron variant of the coronavirus can partially evade the protection from two doses of Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, the research head of a laboratory at the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa said on Tuesday.

Still, the study showed that blood from people who had received two doses of the vaccine and had a prior infection were mostly able to neutralize the variant, suggesting that booster doses of the vaccine could help to fend off infection.

Alex Sigal, a professor at the Africa Health Research Institute, said on Twitter there was “a very large drop” in neutralization of the Omicron variant relative to an earlier strain of COVID-19.

The lab tested blood from 12 people who had been vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, according to a manuscript posted on the website for his lab. The preliminary data in the manuscript has not yet been peer reviewed.

Blood from five out of six people who had been vaccinated as well as previously infected with COVID-19 still neutralized the Omicron variant, the manuscript said.

“These results are better than I expected. The more antibodies you got, the more chance you’ll be protected from Omicron,” Sigal said on Twitter.

He said the lab had not tested the variant against blood from people who had received a booster dose, because they are not available in South Africa yet.

According to the manuscript, the lab observed a 41-fold decline in levels of neutralizing antibodies against the Omicron variant.

Sigal said on Twitter that figure is likely to be adjusted after his lab does more experiments.

While neutralizing antibodies are an indicator of the body’s immune response, scientists believe other kinds of cells such as B-cells and T-cells also are stimulated by the vaccines and help protect against the effects of the coronavirus.

The preliminary data does not indicate that the vaccine is less able to prevent severe illness or death. While lab tests are under way, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said last week “we think it’s likely that people will have substantial protection against severe disease caused by Omicron.”

The Omicron variant, first detected in southern Africa last month, has triggered alarms globally of another surge in infections, with more than two dozen countries from Japan to the United States reporting cases.

The World Health Organization classified it on Nov. 26 as a “variant of concern,” but said there was no evidence to support the need for new vaccines specifically designed to tackle the Omicron variant with its many mutations.

There is not significant data yet on how vaccines from Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and other drugmakers hold up against the new variant. All the manufacturers, including Pfizer and BioNTech, are expected to release their own data within weeks.

BioNTech’s Sahin told NBC News on Tuesday that the drugmaker has data coming on Wednesday or Thursday related to the new variant.

Top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday that preliminary evidence indicates that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus likely has a higher degree of transmissibility but is less severe.

He said the United States was doing its own tests to determine the protectiveness of the current vaccines against the variant and expects results sometime next week.

Umer Raffat, an analyst for Evercore ISI, cautioned against reading too much into a single study, noting there has been significant variability in measuring declines in antibody levels in previous lab studies.

“Let’s wait for additional studies to draw a mosaic,” he said.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru and Michael Erman in New Jersey; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Lisa Shumaker, Peter Cooney and Kim Coghill)

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Moderna CEO says data for Omicron-specific shot likely available in March

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Moderna Inc’s vaccine candidate against the Omicron coronavirus variant will enter clinical development in the next few weeks and the company expects to be able to share data with regulators around March, CEO Stephane Bancel said on Monday.

“The vaccine is being finished … it should be in the clinic in coming weeks. We are hoping in the March timeframe to be able to have data to share with regulators to figure out next steps,” Bancel said at the World Economic Forum’s virtual Davos Agenda conference.

Moderna is also developing a single vaccine that combines a booster dose against COVID-19 with its experimental flu shot. (https://reut.rs/3FAeyya)

Bancel said the best case scenario was the combined COVID/flu vaccine would be available by the fall of 2023, at least in some countries.

“Our goal is to be able to have a single annual booster so that we don’t have compliance issues where people don’t want to get two to three shots a winter.”

Many countries are already offering a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to their citizens, especially to older individuals and those who are immunocompromised, while Israel has started offering its citizens a fourth dose.

Earlier in January, Moderna’s CEO said people may need a fourth shot in the fall of 2022 as the efficacy of boosters against COVID-19 was likely to decline over the next few months.

However, booster programs have met with skepticism from some disease experts over whether, and how widely, additional doses should become available, including the European Union’s drug regulator, which has expressed doubts about the need for a fourth booster dose.

Speaking at the same event, top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said there was no evidence that repeat booster doses would overwhelm the immune system.

“Giving boosters at different times, there is really no evidence that’s going to hinder (immune response).”

Fauci said the goal should be to have a booster that induces a response against multiple potential variants.

 

(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Potter)

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COVID outbreak declared at Barrie hospital's Dialysis Clinic – OrilliaMatters

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NEWS RELEASE
ROYAL VICTORIA REGIONAL HEALTH CENTRE
*************************

Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH), in collaboration with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, has declared the COVID-19 outbreak in Surgery 3 over and a new outbreak in the In-centre Dialysis Clinic. 

It is important to note that when an inpatient tests positive, they are moved to a unit that specializes in caring for COVID patients. All other patients on the unit are isolated, on contact precautions, tested frequently and closely monitored for symptoms as well as caregivers tested and monitored closely. Each unit is closed to visitors and enhanced cleaning protocols are in place.

Current situation – COVID-19 positive cases related to unit outbreaks:

RVH – IOOF
24 patients
15 staff

Transitional Care Unit
4 patients
6 staff

Cardiac Renal
7 patients
6 staff

In-centre Dialysis Clinic
2 patients
2 staff

*************************

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Health officials in Prince Edward Island report 231 new cases of COVID-19 – The Record (New Westminster)

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CHARLOTTETOWN — Health officials in Prince Edward Island are reporting 231 new cases of COVID-19 today, including new infections at two long-term care facilities.

Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says there has been an average of 215 new cases per day over the last week.

There are 1,934 active reported cases on the Island.  

Morrison says there are seven people hospitalized with the disease, including one in intensive care.  

The outbreak at the Atlantic Baptist Long Term Care Facility has six new cases, for a total of 25, while the Garden Home Long Term Care Facility has two new cases, for a total of 15.  

Morrison says there are also five new cases, for a total of 15, among people who regularly access shelters and outreach services in Charlottetown.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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