Will we need a 4th Covid-19 vaccine dose due to Omicron?


Although discussions about fourth doses are prema-ture, research is increasingly supporting the effec-tiveness of three doses against the Omicron variant. Nick Oxford/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Studies so far have shown that just two doses of COVID-19 vaccines may not be as effective against the Omicron variant.

However, data has indicated that boosting with an additional shot of the Covid-19 vaccines may restore this protection to a level similar to what the two-dose regimen provided against other variants.

Israel has already rolled out second booster doses to offer eligible populations four doses in total. The CDC has not yet indicated whether it will do this.

Scientists stress there is not enough data to warrant a fourth dose or annual immunization at this time.

Early reports suggest the standard two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine may not provide sufficient pro-tection against infection with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, despite still offering enough protec-tion against severe disease and death.

This has expedited the rollout of boosters in many countries, with vaccine-makers announcing that they’re working on variant-specific vaccines.

Although the necessity of three doses is becoming apparent, it’s less clear how long that protection lasts with antibodies waning over time.

Whether a fourth dose will eventually be needed to combat this — and if so, when it will be administered — remains largely unknown for now.

Here’s what the experts think about this possibility.

A 4th shot, sooner than expected?

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC that a fourth dose may be needed after preliminary research showed that the Omicron variant can undermine the antibodies generated by the COVID-19 vaccine. He also said we may need this dose sooner rather than later.

“When we see real-world data, it will determine if the Omicron is well covered by the third dose and for how long. And the second point, I think we will need a fourth dose,” Bourla said.

“With Omicron we need to wait and see because we have very little information. We may need it faster,” he added.

Despite these comments, the World Health Organi-zation (WHO) hasn’t decided to endorse a global rollout of booster shots and has signaled that more data is needed before a decision is made.

However, in December, Israel became the first country to approve a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett an-nounced that the second booster would be offered to those ages 60 or older and at-risk groups.

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