COVID digest: Omicron booster may not be needed, study finds
February 5, 2022
A study in monkeys suggested an omicron-specific booster was not significantly different from Moderna's conventional booster. The US passed the grim milestone of 900,000 COVID deaths. DW has the latest.
US government researchers have said they pitted the current Moderna COVID-19 booster shot against an omicron-specific booster in a study in monkeys. The results showed no significant differences, suggesting a new booster for the new variant may not be required.
The study, which is yet to be peer reviewed, involved monkeys vaccinated with two doses of Moderna's vaccine. They were dosed nine months later with either the conventional booster or one specifically targeting the omicron variant.
Researchers said they found both boosters produced "comparable and significant increases in neutralizing antibody responses" against all variants.
"This is very, very good news," Daniel Douek, a vaccine researcher at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who co-lead the study, was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency. "It means we don't need to radically redesign the vaccine to make it an omicron vaccine."
Comoros forces people to get COVID-19 jab
John Moore, a professor of microbiology and immunology who was not involved in the study, said a key advantage of the monkey study is that researchers can boost the animals and then infect them with the virus and measure the immune response.
"Let's see what the human data show," Moore said. "Monkey data are generally pretty predictive, but you are going to need the human data."
Moderna and Pfizer have started testing omicron-specific boosters of their vaccines in humans.
COVID-19 Special: What works against omicron?
Here's the latest on coronavirus from across the globe:
Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University showed that more than 900,000 people in the US have died so far of the coronavirus. The country has registered more COVID deaths than any other country in the world.
"Each soul is irreplaceable. We pray for the loved ones they have left behind, and together we keep every family enduring this pain in our hearts," said President Joe Biden, while urging people to get vaccinated.
Health officials in the USare also considering lengthening the gap between the first two vaccine doses to lower the risk of heart inflammation and improve their effectiveness.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was making the recommendation for the two most commonly used vaccines, Moderna and BioNTech-Pfizer.
Currently, the recommended interval between the first two shots of BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is three and four weeks, respectively.
"It's not a protest anymore. It's become an occupation. It's time for this to come to an end," said Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly said police expected protests to ramp up again this weekend. Demonstrations are also planned in Toronto and Quebec City.
Thousands of protesters railing against mandatory vaccination and other COVID-19 restrictions descended on Toronto last weekend, blocking traffic around Parliament Hill. The numbers have since reduced, but more protesters are expected this weekend.
Truckers protest new vaccine rules
Organizers of the Beijing Winter Olympics reported 45 new COVID cases on the first day of the Games. "The overall number is increased but it is within our expectation," said Huang Chun, deputy director general of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games Pandemic Prevention and Control Office.
With most athletes and team members already at the site, organizers now expect case numbers to drop with fewer new arrivals coming. The Games are taking place in a bubble completely separated from the population.
Singapore reported 13,046 new cases in the last 24 hours, almost triple the previous day's tally. The country has fully vaccinated 89% of the population, and 59% have received booster shots.
Authorities had warned the daily cases may rise to as many as 15,000, due to the spread of the omicron variant. Health officials said Singapore recorded 85,357 cases over the last 28 days, but 99.7% of them had mild or no symptoms.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said that both he and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19.
"Thank God, we are pulling through the sickness, which we learned is an omicron variant," Erdogan posted on Twitter.
Turkey's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in a tweet that the couple were well enough to continue working. The minister also said the variant was spreading rapidly in the country.
Erdogan was in Kyiv on Thursday as part of diplomatic efforts to deal with the Ukraine crisis.
Turkey reported more than 100,000 fresh cases on Tuesday, the highest number so far.