A new study out of Columbia University says the Omicron variant is “markedly resistant” to vaccines and boosters might not do much to help, spelling bad news for the country as Omicron spreads and COVID-19 cases rise nationally.
“A striking feature of this variant is the large number of spike mutations that pose a threat to the efficacy of current COVID-19 vaccines and antibody therapies,” according to the study authored by more than 20 scientists at Columbia and the University of Hong Kong.
The Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa in November and is widely believed to soon become the dominant strain in the U.S., eclipsing the Delta variant.
The scientists express concern in the study published Wednesday that the variants “extensive” mutations can “greatly compromise” the vaccine, even neutralizing it. The report said the booster shots prevent some of the neutralization, but the variant “may still pose a risk” for those with their third shot.
“Even a third booster shot may not adequately protect against Omicron infection,” the study said, adding it’s still smart to get a booster.
The results are “in line with emerging clinical data on the Omicron variant demonstrating higher rates of reinfection and vaccine breakthroughs,” the authors said.
One study recently showed Omicron is roughly 70 times more transmissible than Delta, but less severe.
The new Columbia study ends with a grave warning and a call to action to the scientific community.
“It is not too far-fetched to think that this [COVID-19] is now only a mutation or two away from being pan-resistant to current antibodies,” it says. “We must devise strategies that anticipate the evolutional direction of the virus and develop agents that target better conserved viral elements.”
More than 5.3 people million worldwide, including more than 802,000 in the US, have died from COVID-19 as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.