According to a new study from the University of Oxford, a booster dose of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine significantly increased the levels of neutralising antibodies against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, suggesting that the vaccine may provide some protection against the fast-spreading variant.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, being marketed under the brand names Covishield, manufactured in India, and Vaxzevria, produced in South Korea, was developed at the laboratories of the University of Oxford. The current study was conducted by a different team of researchers at the same university.
The study found that sera obtained from individuals one month after receiving the third dose was able to neutralise the Omicron variant to levels that were comparable to those observed against the Delta variant one month after the second dose.
Studies on other vaccines like Moderna or Pfizer have also suggested that their third doses offered some protection against the Omicron variant, although with reduced effectiveness compared to their action against the Delta variant.
Covishield accounts for more than 85 per cent of all vaccines given in India. For that reason, it is not considered an ideal vaccine for the booster doses. Health experts have maintained, and several studies have shown, that booster doses work best if a vaccine different from the primary doses is used.
A couple of days ago, AstraZeneca had also unveiled its plans for developing an Omicron-specific vaccine.
Amid a rapid surge in infections with the Omicron variant, several countries in Europe have begun vaccinating children below 12 years of age. In most of the world, only people above the age of 18 have been vaccinated because of very low prevalence of coronavirus cases in younger age groups. A few countries later opened up vaccinations for the 12-18 age group as well.
But the unvaccinated people, even in the younger age groups, are being considered vulnerable to the Omicron variant. A recent study in France found infection among children in the 6-10 age group to be twice that among the large population, The New York Times reported. A similar pattern has been observed in Italy where schoolchildren and young adults account for the majority of recent cases, the newspaper said.