Omicron and the Vaccines

Modern and Pfizer are your best bets, but most of the world has had other vaccines.

Via the NYT: Most of the World’s Vaccines Likely Won’t Prevent Infection From Omicron.

A growing body of preliminary research suggests the Covid vaccines used in most of the world offer almost no defense against becoming infected by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

All vaccines still seem to provide a significant degree of protection against serious illness from Omicron, which is the most crucial goal. But only the Pfizer and Moderna shots, when reinforced by a booster, appear to have initial success at stopping infections, and these vaccines are unavailable in most of the world.

The other shots — including those from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and vaccines manufactured in China and Russia — do little to nothing to stop the spread of Omicron, early research shows.

To me, the most important bit of information above is “All vaccines still seem to provide a significant degree of protection against serious illness from Omicron” as that is the key goal, as it keeps people out of hospitals and, most importantly reduces fatalities. Granted word “seem” looms large.

It is also encouraging to see that it seems that the mRNA vaccines when boosted are showing signs of diminishing infections.

The Pfizer and Moderna shots use the new mRNA technology, which has consistently offered the best protection against infection with every variant. All of the other vaccines are based on older methods of triggering an immune response.

The frightening part of all of this is that globally, those are not the shot huge chunks of people have received, setting us up for a deepening of the global Covid-19 crisis:

The Chinese vaccines Sinopharm and Sinovac — which make up almost half of all shots delivered globally — offer almost zero protection from Omicron infection. The great majority of people in China have received these shots, which are also widely used in low-and middle-income countries such as Mexico and Brazil.

A preliminary effectiveness study in Britain found that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine showed no ability to stop Omicron infection six months after vaccination. Ninety percent of vaccinated people in India received this shot, under the brand name Covishield; it has also been widely used across much of sub-Saharan Africa, where Covax, the global Covid vaccine program, has distributed 67 million doses of it to 44 countries.

Researchers predict that Russia’s Sputnik vaccine, which is also being used in Africa and Latin America, will show similarly dismal rates of protection against Omicron.

Previous infection may help:

Preliminary data from South Africa suggest that with Omicron, there is a much higher chance of people who already had Covid getting reinfected than there was with the original virus and previous variants. But some public health experts say they believe that countries that have already been through brutal waves of Covid, such as Brazil and India, may have a buffer against Omicron, and vaccination after infection produces high antibody levels.

At the moment, signs point to a lot of infections globally over the next couple of months.

FILED UNDER: COVID-19, World Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    Any port in a storm. And, man, are we in the midst of a storm going on for two years.

    Mexico did use some Chinese vaccines, but the bulk has been split between Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Sputnik V (about which I’ve many unanswered questions). For boosters they’re giving out AZ, as the Pfizer stock is reserved for teens (now the group of 15-17 years old), since it’s the only one cleared for this age group.

    I’m fine with that. I intend to avoid COVID for the rest of my life, therefore I take all due precautions. A booster of AstraZeneca is not the best option, but it’s better than no booster at all.

    3
  2. CSK says:

    I got the J&J vax, because that’s what they were doling out at Mass. General Hospital the day of my appointment, and then the Pfizer booster. I wonder where that leaves me?

    5
  3. Pete S says:

    I had AZ for first shot and Pfizer second. Now scheduled for Pfizer booster Thursday. My wife and daughter can’t get booster appointments yet but will be able to book tomorrow (1 benefit of being over 50)

    2
  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    Yesterday, I surfed through an article on vaccines an Omicron, it had a chart showing effectiveness ratings. The gold standard was 2 doses of an mRNA, plus booster and a prior covid infection.

    I’ll stay with 3 of the 4, thank you.

    9
  5. Michael Cain says:

    @CSK:
    There was at least one small early study based on antibody titers that said a Pfizer or Moderna booster after any of Pfizer, Moderna, or J&J initial vaccination came out almost equally effective.

    3
  6. mattbernius says:

    Preliminary data from South Africa suggest that with Omicron, there is a much higher chance of people who already had Covid getting reinfected than there was with the original virus and previous variants. But some public health experts say they believe that countries that have already been through brutal waves of Covid, such as Brazil and India, may have a buffer against Omicron, and vaccination after infection produces high antibody levels.

    This is a point that I’ve heard a number of times now and has some potentially big ramifications.

    My layperson understanding is most of the places where we have seen Omicron are all places where the majority of the population has had Covid, been vaccinated, or both. So these are not naive populations. This means that we don’t yet know if Omicron’s symptoms are milder than past variants because they are inherently milder or if it’s because it initially spread in non-naive areas.

    If it’s the latter and not the former, things could get really ugly in areas of the US that have been vaccine resistant.

    7
  7. CSK says:

    @Michael Cain:
    Thanks. What I’ve read so far seems to indicate that.

  8. Gustopher says:

    @mattbernius:

    things could get really ugly in areas of the US that have been vaccine resistant.

    My brother, who does his own research, assures me that omicron is very mild, barely more than a bad cold. Further, areas of the country like the Dakotas and Florida already have natural immunity, which his research has led him to believe is better than any artificial immunity.

    My brother is also an idiot.

    12
  9. Andy says:

    We usually go to Ohio or Wisconsin over Christmas to spend time with family, but we (the whole extended family) decided to cancel those plans primarily due to Covid. Even though most of the family is fully vaccinated, there are a number of older and overweight people who are still vulnerable despite being vaccinated. It’s unfortunate, but avoidance is the wiser option at this point.

    5
  10. CSK says:

    Yesterday Sarah Palin told a Turning Point USA gathering that “it will be over my dead body” that she gets the vaccine.

    She’s already had Covid, she says, and is thus immune.

    She may come to regret those words.

    3
  11. JohnMcC says:

    @mattbernius: Study was released in last 24 hrs from Hong Kong University, which turns out to have an extremely advanced lab in which they grow tissue lines from actual human lung/airway samples. The word is ‘ex-vivo’ tissue.

    Omicron replicates in bronchial/tracheal tissue 70 times faster than Delta or Original variants. Seventy! But it is found in lung tissue at 10% or less compared to D or A variants. So if this (so-far non-peer-reviewed) article is correct it’s very likely to be less deathly because bronchitis is less lethal that pneumonia. It is also an explanation for the rapid spread since it would be aerosolized far higher rates (each droplet would have more virus material).

    4
  12. SC_Birdflyte says:

    We’ve been lucky so far. We were able to get a Moderna dose for our first and second shots (thanks to one of my wife’s former colleagues), and also for the booster.

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    @CSK:

    She may come to regret those words.

    I think that should read, May she come to regret those words.

    4
  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    Christmas here will be the two us and one kid with all 3 Modernas, and one kid and one likely future son-in-law, with just the first two Modernas.

    It will give us something to talk about other than our many failures as parents.

    3
  15. JKB says:

    We must worry what will be the impact of Omicron in a highly vaccinated population. In South Africa (SA), the Omicron variant, in a mid-20% vaccinated, younger population, the symptoms have been mild, not worsened and cleared after 5 days. That in SA, 50% of those “in hospital” with Omicron are those found with Omicron after admission to hospital with for other non-COVID reasons. Also, that in the earliest areas, the cases have peaked after 3 weeks.

    But in the US and UK, the double-dosed and boosted vaccinated are testing positive with Omicron. Oddly, the news only mentions the unvaccinated cases incidentally mostly as potential cases. But in the US we are only getting started with Omicron now found in all but 5 states. Mid to late January, we’ll be on the back side. Upside, many companies will be shutdown in January due to the Biden vaccine mandate now freed up by the appeals court.

  16. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Yeah, well, I didn’t wish to be mean-spirited. Tis the season to be…charitable, I guess.

    1
  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: As I noted at the other post, from Sarah’s lips to God’s ears.

    2
  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JKB: “…50% of those “in hospital” with Omicron are those found with Omicron after admission to hospital with for other non-COVID reasons.”

    Clear up something for us. Is your implication that SA patients with Omicron are being infected with it in the hospital setting itself? Feel free to pull an “I’m not implying anything, I’m just repeating what I’ve heard” if the question is too hard, or you discover that you can’t back up your original assertion. We’ll understand; we know your schtick well.

    4
  19. dazedandconfused says:

    @mattbernius:
    The missing information is whether the infected suffer serious illness or not. Infected and serious illness are not the same things. If this bug follows the course of the common flues, previous exposure to a related bug can be the deciding factor.

    This is really difficult to discover. A significant portion of the population has been exposed, infected, and has rid itself of a COVID variant without knowing for sure they had it.

  20. Gustopher says:

    @JKB:

    Oddly, the news only mentions the unvaccinated cases incidentally mostly as potential cases.

    Almost as if it isn’t news that people who aren’t vaccinated against a communicable get that communicable disease. Go figure.

    Some places are reporting vaccinated vs unvaccinated infection, hospitalization and death rates. I suppose we will get real world data in a month or so. Unless there is something freakishly bizarre, the unvaccinated will be dying off at greater rates.

    Hopefully those rates are low. I think everyone would love the “bad cold that gives immunity and outcompetes the deadly ones” variant. The data isn’t there yet to say that though.

    (The immunocompromised might not love it.)

    1
  21. Kylopod says:

    It’s happening.

    Elizabeth Warren
    @SenWarren
    I regularly test for COVID & while I tested negative earlier this week, today I tested positive with a breakthrough case. Thankfully, I am only experiencing mild symptoms & am grateful for the protection provided against serious illness that comes from being vaccinated & boosted.
    4:33 PM · Dec 19, 2021

    1
  22. JohnSF says:

    @JKB:
    Over time I’ve periodically tried to engage with you, on my default assumption of your being a reasoning, sapient, being.
    But, eventually, the overwhelming evidence points to only one conclusion: you really are an idiot, aren’t you?

    3
  23. Kathy says:

    @JohnSF:

    The only thing I’m curious about @KJB is whether they make up their own BS, or outsource it to someone with more nimble bowels.

    1
  24. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JohnSF:

    you really are an idiot, aren’t you?

    You are an admirably patient and restrained man.

    5
  25. Gustopher says:

    Hospitalizations going up in the UK.

    https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/

    Not surprising, given the cases going up, but a data point in contrast to the “everything is sunny in South Africa” arguments.

    Whether our healthcare system, population demographics and vaccination regimes are closer to UK or South Africa is an exercise left to the reader. We have typically followed the UK by a couple of weeks despite our differences.

  26. Stormy Dragon says:

    @JohnMcC:

    in which they grow tissue lines from actual human lung/airway samples. The word is ‘ex-vivo’ tissue.

    Taken from massacred Uyghurs concentration camp prisoners, no doubt.

  27. Stormy Dragon says:

    @mattbernius:

    This means that we don’t yet know if Omicron’s symptoms are milder than past variants because they are inherently milder or if it’s because it initially spread in non-naive areas.

    Third disturbing possibility: as the people most susceptible to COVID19 get killed off in earlier waves, subsequent waves will necessarily have lower fatality rates because only the survivors are left.

  28. JohnSF says:

    Omicron and the Vaccines
    Their first album was brilliant, but they went downhill after that, if you ask me. 🙂

    1
  29. robert denhardt says:

    @Michael Reynolds: real nice ,wishing death upon another individual! that’s a problem!