Contracting the Omicron variant while fully vaccinated could boost your immunity to the extent that it can fight off a variety of coronavirus variants, according to new research. The findings were revealed in 2 US studies from the University of Washington and from vaccine producer BioNTech.
If backed up by real-world data, this could be a sign that millions of vaccinated people who contracted the Omicron variant are unlikely to become seriously ill from another Covid-19 variant soon.
The studies examined blood samples from people who’d had Covid and then received 2 or 3 vaccine doses. They also looked at blood taken from people who’d contracted the Delta and Omicron variants after receiving 2 or 3 vaccine doses. Other participants were vaccinated and boosted but had never had Covid and the last category had contracted the virus and had never been vaccinated.
The findings show that antibodies detected in vaccinated people who contracted Omicron outperformed those found in the other categories. The antibodies can even recognise and attack the Delta variant, which is significantly different to Omicron.
The studies also examined B cells, which produce fresh antibodies in the presence of pathogens, and found that vaccinated people who’d had Omicron got a better response from B cells than people who’d received a booster dose but had never been infected. The response was missing in unvaccinated people who’d had Omicron, says David Veesler from the University of Washington.
“This would be a problem if a new variant that is significantly different emerged.”
Discussions are now taking place about the possibility of updating vaccines to target Omicron. According to the team at BioNTech, it may be better to offer people a booster specifically aimed at fighting Omicron, instead of continuing with the original vaccines.