Scientists from Ohio State University found that a COVID-19 booster shot will provide strong and broad protection against the range of omicron subvariants of the COVID-19 virus in circulation.
The research is published in the New England Journal of Medicine and Cell Host & Microbe and was conducted by Shan-Lu Liu et al.
In the study, the team tested neutralizing antibody levels against the BA.2 and BA.3 omicron variants and deltacron, a recombinant variant created by the exchange of genetic material between delta and omicron.
They found that a third mRNA vaccine dose was required to generate a high enough concentration of antibodies to neutralize BA.2 and deltacron, as well as other sublineage omicron variants, including the original, known as BA.1, and BA.1.1.
Antibodies produced by just the two-dose series of mRNA vaccines were enough to neutralize BA.3—a sign this variant is not likely to produce a new surge of omicron infections.
Recent national data have suggested that the BA.2 variant constitutes about 90% of COVID-19 cases in the United States.
The team says based on the neutralization pattern, one booster shot can protect against BA.2 and deltacron, and they do not suspect that BA.3 will become predominant because it’s sensitive to neutralization by even two doses.
The deltacron spike protein is structured similarly to other omicron variants, so people infected with omicron seem to have pretty good protection against deltacron.
But people infected with delta had pretty weak protection against deltacron. In addition, compared to the booster, infection by omicron provides much less protection against deltacron.
Patients with delta or omicron infection were similarly protected against their respective infectious variants, and a vaccine dose on top of infection improved protection.
Among all of the health care professionals and infected patients studied, people who had received three vaccine doses had the broadest and strongest antibody protection overall.
The team says the virus is evolving. That’s why researchers still need to be very cautious. The best preparation is to get the second booster.
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