Digital Desk Staff
A third dose of the Pfizer jab — the dominant vaccine given in Ireland — is enough to combat the immediate threat of the Omicron variant, the manufacturers have said.
As The Irish Examiner reports, preliminary testing shows that a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine offers as much protection against Omicron as the first two doses give against other variants of the coronavirus.
The Pfizer jab accounts for 86 per cent of all vaccines given in Ireland so far, with 6.4m doses administered, including booster shots.
Laboratory work by manufacturers Pfizer and BioNTech found two doses "may not be sufficient” to protect against Omicron, but a booster shot dramatically improves the odds, easing fears that Omicron could evade vaccines and present an entirely new challenge for the scientific community.
The work showed that three doses of the vaccine increased neutralising antibodies against Omicron in people's blood 25-fold compared with two doses.
"A third dose provides a similar level of neutralising antibodies to Omicron as is observed after two doses against wild-type and other variants that emerged before Omicron," the firms said in a statement.
These antibody levels are associated with high efficacy against both the wild-type virus and these variants."
The companies are continuing to work on a variant-specific vaccine for Omicron, and expect to have it available by March "in the event that an adaption is needed to further increase the level and duration of protection".
A lower dose of the Pfizer jab can now be given to children in Ireland, aged five to 11, with the rollout expected to start before Christmas, with the majority of children to be offered the first vaccine in January.
The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) recommended to Government yesterday that jabs should be offered to around 480,000 primary school children.
Some vulnerable children with underlying health conditions, or living with an immunocompromised person, are expected to be jabbed before Christmas, with the widespread rollout beginning early in the new year.
The Department of Health and the HSE are currently assessing where to safely administer vaccines for children.
The smaller size of a child’s dose — just 10 micrograms, a third of an adult dose — means it is safer to administer the vaccine away from the adult system to avoid potential dosage mix-ups.