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expert reaction to press release from Pfizer-BioNTech about omicron and neutralising antibody titres after two and three vaccine doses

The press release from Pfizer and BioNTech provides an update on the omicron variant from preliminary laboratory studies.


Prof Eleanor Riley, Professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease, University of Edinburgh, said:

“The press release from Pfizer provides reassuring information.  Not only does a booster vaccination provide strong antibody-mediated neutralisation of Omicron but also the vast majority of the sites in the spike protein that activate T cells are conserved between Omicron and the vaccine strain.  This suggests that a booster should provide high levels of protection against infection and severe disease.

“However, the data also show that two doses of vaccine are not sufficient to give high neutralising activity against variant viruses.  This means that whilst two doses may be enough prevent severe disease they are not sufficient to control virus transmission.

“The message is clear: if we want to control virus transmission and avoid further restrictions, we need everyone who hasn’t yet done so to get vaccinated and to get their booster.”


Prof Jonathan Ball, Professor of Molecular Virology, University of Nottingham, said:

“Whilst a relatively small dataset, the fact that neutralising antibody levels against the omicron variant after boosting were similar to levels seen against the original coronavirus strains after two doses of Pfizer vaccine – which we know is good at protecting from serious disease – is reassuring.

“We need to understand whether these increased virus-killing antibody levels after boost plays out for all age groups, but these early signs are good.  Especially as recent data from the CoV-Boost trial showed that T cells increased too after boosting.”


Prof Charles Bangham, Professor of Immunology, and Co-Director of the Institute of Infection, Imperial College London, said:

“These encouraging data provide strong support for the campaign to give three doses of vaccine.  Emerging data from South Africa indicate that a combination of previous infection (with another variant) and vaccination also gives an enhanced antibody response.  The Pfizer press release also reminds us that antibodies are not the only means by which the immune response protects against a virus: they point out that 80% of the regions of the spike protein that are recognized by cytotoxic (killer) T cells are unchanged in the omicron variant.  This is likely to be a critical component of the immune response to the vaccine – and the response to previous infection – that protects against severe disease.  Finally, antibodies that don’t neutralize the virus in a test tube – in vitro – also make an important contribution to antiviral protection in people.”



All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:



Declared interests

Prof Eleanor Riley: “No COIs.”

Prof Jonathan Ball: “Receipt of funding to develop next generation vaccines.”

None others received.

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