Pfizer and Moderna vaccines proved very effective against COVID Omicron variant, study shows

Vaccines work against Omicron
Vaccines work against Omicron Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

The two main COVID-19 vaccines used in the U.S., Pfizer-BioNTech's and Moderna's, remained highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death from the Omicron variant, even if they were less effective at preventing mild infections, a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. And people who got a third dose fared best.

Two doses of the vaccines were 79 percent effective at preventing people from dying or going on ventilators during the Omicron surge, the tracking report found, while those who got a booster shot ended up with 94 percent protection. "Anybody who is skeptical really needs to look at that number and think, 'Okay, maybe I'm going to get a cold and feel sick, but ... I'm not going to get put on a ventilator or die,'" Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, tells The Washington Post.

The CDC study looked at COVID-19 cases at 21 hospitals in 18 states from March 11, 2021, to Jan. 24, giving researchers a view of how vaccines worked against the Alpha, Delta, and Omicron variants. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, called the report "solid gold." "This is such solid information that reinforces the current recommendation to get vaccinated and boosted — and [the vaccine] worked for Omicron," he told the Post.

As Omicron has waned, COVID-19 cases have fallen dramatically in the U.S. But a new subvariant, BA.2, is causing a massive wave of infections in China and a more modest rise in infections in Europe, and it is overtaking Omicron in the U.S., too. "Whether or not that is going to lead to another surge, a mini surge or maybe even a moderate surge, is very unclear because there are a lot of other things that are going on right now," Dr. Antony Fauci, President Biden's medical adviser, tells an ABC News podcast.

The BA.2 subvariant is similar to original Omicron, though even more transmissible, and Fauci said his colleagues in Britain are seeing a "blip" in cases, though "their intensive care bed usage is not going up, which means they're not seeing a blip up of severe disease." The U.S. pandemic trajectory has lagged behind Britain's for about three weeks.

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