The new Covid-19 variant Omicron is potentially more transmissible and may reduce the efficacy of vaccinations. The leading Covid testing expert Dr Quinton Fivelman says it’s vital to ensure people have as many antibodies as possible to protect against severe disease. That means new variant booster jabs every six months and regular testing of antibody levels.
The new Covid-19 variant Omicron is thought to be more transmissible and is said to be fuelling an ‘exponential’ rise in South African Covid cases as it displaces the Delta variant. Even the head of the vaccine maker Moderna, Stéphane Bancel, believes existing vaccines will be less effective against it than they were against the Delta variant.
For this reason, it’s vital people have as high a level of antibodies as possible to protect against severe disease, says the leading Covid testing expert Dr Quinton Fivelman PhD. This should involve everyone who qualifies receiving newly adapted booster jabs every six to nine months.
Dr Fivelman, the Chief Scientific Officer at London Medical Laboratory said, ‘It’s good news that the Government has announced a deal for 114 million additional Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for potential use as a fourth jab and beyond. Omicron could reduce the effectiveness of current vaccines, but it is likely that they will still protect against severe disease.
‘What is needed in the longer term is a rolling programme of boosters adapted to cover new strains as they evolve. The arrival of Omicron highlights this. Existing vaccines may not be as targeted against this as previous variants, because they train the immune system against the coronavirus’ spike protein and Omicron has more than 30 mutations in this protein. However, some antibodies and T cells will still remain effective.
‘Imagine this as a battle: the enemy has a new defence against some of our main weapons, but the number of troops on our side still counts for a lot and will have a big impact on the outcome.
‘New research by the Cov-Boost Trial published in The Lancet shows people who received a Pfizer boost after two doses of AstraZeneca developed antibody levels nearly 25 times higher than controls. Those receiving the Pfizer top-up after receiving two Pfizer shots previously had an eightfold increase in antibodies. Both Pfizer and Moderna boosters also increased the level of T cells, vital in warding off the Omicron variant.
‘While boosters of existing vaccines should help protect against Omicron, “tweaked” top-up jabs are vital moving forward. It’s also imperative to regularly test everyone’s antibody levels to ensure the effectiveness of their vaccinations. We have been calling for wider testing since July, and the new Omicron variant makes this even more vital.
‘The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is now advising that all adults aged 18 to 39 should be offered a third jab three months after their second. London Medical Laboratory believes this recommendation should be extended to include ongoing top-up jabs for everyone who might need them, especially for those who don’t have a good immune response to the vaccine or those who lose their immunity quickly. The priority should be the clinically vulnerable and those people who have not developed sufficient antibodies after initial vaccinations.
‘To determine this, there should be a nationwide rollout of antibody level testing, at least for everyone suffering from conditions such as diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure that could make them more vulnerable to severe Covid-19 infection. People should test their antibodies every three months or so to ensure they have sufficient protection against severe illness.
‘If anyone is concerned about their own immune response to the jabs and how well they continue to produce antibodies, the new generation blood tests available from London Medical Laboratory are highly accurate, quick and simple to carry out, either at home through the post, or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer this test across London and the southeast.”