New research highlights added protection of booster against Omicron variant

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A day after a second case of the Omicron variant was confirmed in North Carolina, new research highlighted a significant gap in protection offered by the Moderna vaccine versus Omicron compared to other strains.

"Blood samples after two shots of the Moderna vaccine were 50 times less effective at neutralizing the Omicron variant, as they are at neutralizing the earlier variants," said Dr. David Montefiori, a Duke Health virologist who contributed to the report.

However, their findings noted a marked increase in protection offered by a booster dose.

"The good news is that for people who got their boost(er), the blood samples for people who got the boost are just as effective against Omicron variant as they are against the Delta variant after two doses of the vaccine," Montefiori explained.

Thursday, vaccination clinics in Wake County were busy, as people prepared for upcoming holiday gatherings and travel.

"I feel pretty protected as long as I get the booster," said Pamela Troublefield, who was getting her booster.

Troublefield plans on spending time with family.

"I've already checked with all my family members, and everybody's been vaccinated," Troublefield said.

"I believe it's important for them to go ahead and get the booster shots and also to continue to practice safe distancing and wearing the mask," added Dennis Mutisya, a traveling nurse.

As health officials are still reviewing initial data about differences between Omicron and earlier variants, Montefiori is urging people to not let their guard down.

"We don't yet know for certain whether or not it is less likely to cause (severe) disease. The early results are suggesting that it is. But there are still people who are being hospitalized and dying from Omicron infection. So it's going to be very important be vigilant in protecting yourself and your loved ones over the holidays," said Montefiori.

He predicts a surge in Omicron cases stemming from holiday get-togethers in the next couple weeks.

"We have been in a mode where we've been relaxing, hoping that we're getting over this because so many people have gotten vaccinated, Omicron is changing that equation," said Montefiori.

Earlier this month, Pfizer reported that a booster dose of their vaccine offered greater protection against Omicron than the initial two-dose regimen.
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