Virus Experts Issued a New Warning For People Who Got Omicron
You should know this if you got sick with the most recent COVID variant.
The COVID pandemic has had so many phases, from the initial terror, to the introduction of vaccines and booster shots, to the many variants, and all the enacting and lifting of restrictions. Just yesterday, a Biden administration official confirmed that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would no longer be enforcing masking on planes and other public transportation, as a federal judge in Florida ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) had overstepped when putting the mandate into place. It seems as if things are changing every day and with the lifting of mandates, you may feel like things are returning to a sense of "normalcy." But a recent study just issued a new warning for those who have been infected with Omicron. Read on to learn how new findings could affect you.
Vaccines have previously shown promise in protecting against COVID-19 infection.
When the first COVID vaccines were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Dec. 2020, it was a promising step in the right direction. Now, booster shots have also been approved, and we are currently awaiting more information on whether or not an additional booster will be necessary for the general population. Scientists are currently looking into the best way to address new COVID variants, including Omicron, which settled in during the holiday season and spread faster than any other variant before it. Omicron led to breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals, and unvaccinated individuals were thought to be at even greater risk. Findings from a recent study further indicate these people may still be in jeopardy when it comes to future infection.
A new study found that Omicron infection may not have the same protective qualities that were with previous COVID variants.
People who are unvaccinated are unlikely to develop an immune response to other SARS-CoV-2 variants, even after infection with the Omicron variant, according to findings from a new study undergoing peer review at Nature Portfolio. This means that even if you were infected with Omicron, you still may not be protected from new variants.
As reported by Reuters, antibodies induced by the Omicron BA.1 or BA.2 variants "do not neutralize other versions of the virus," which differs from the antibodies that are induced by COVID-19 vaccines and infections with previous COVID variants. Researchers determined this by analyzing blood samples from participants after Omicron infection.
In a joint email to Reuters, study authors Karin Stiasny, PhD, professor of virology, and Judity Aberle, MD, associate professor of virology, at the Medical University of Vienna, said that without vaccination or pre-Omicron natural infection—both of which "prime" immune systems to recognize COVID–the antibodies that these individuals had after Omicron infection were "very specific for the respective Omicron variant," indicating BA.1 or BA.2. The researchers added, "We detected almost no neutralizing antibodies targeting non-Omicron virus strains."
Different results were observed for vaccinated individuals.
For those who are vaccinated, the results were a bit more promising. Those who were fully vaccinated and had a breakthrough Omicron infection were able to neutralize both Omicron variants, BA.1 and BA.2, just as well as the wild-type strain (meaning a strain that contains no major mutations, according to the CDC) and Delta strain. Multiple exposures to pre-Omicron COVID variants, either through three vaccinations or a mix of infection and vaccinations, led to "efficient neutralization of both Omicron variants," researchers wrote. Neutralization refers to the antibodies' ability to protect from the COVID virus.
"These data are in agreement with other studies that suggested an increase in the magnitude as well as the breadth of neutralizing antibody responses by repeated exposure to the original antigen," the study authors noted.
However, as vaccines were designed to address earlier COVID variants, there was lower efficiency against pre-Omicron variants, with "a fast waning of neutralizing antibodies observed." Additionally, if you were infected with the Omicron BA.2 variant, data show that these antibodies did not protect against any other variant, researchers said.
Researchers noted the importance of getting vaccinated and boosted.
After reviewing data that indicated primary infection with Omicron BA.1 or BA.2 "result in sub-lineage-specific neutralization." According to researchers, this "highlights the importance of booster vaccinations in immune protection."
Research is currently being reviewed, Reuters noted, and further study will be needed to confirm findings.