Pfizer says COVID booster offers protection against omicron; Guam Public Health agrees

Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. (PNC file photo)

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech have announced results from an initial laboratory study demonstrating that three doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine neutralize the omicron variant while two doses show significantly reduced neutralization titers.

According to Pfizer, data indicate that a third dose of its vaccine increases the neutralizing antibody titers by 25-fold compared to two doses against the Omicron variant.

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“Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the Omicron strain, it’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine,” Pfizer Chairman and Chief Executive Officer said in a news release. “Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two-dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services agrees with this view.

In a media briefing Thursday, Annette David, lead epidemiologist for Guam’s State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup, said Pfizer’s finding about booster shots validates Public Health’s call for vaccinated residents to get their booster shots.

“To me, what all of that says is that all the more we should have more vaccinations and boosters. They are so important if we want the best protection for our population. What we need to do is to encourage and support just about everyone to get vaccinated and not just stop with the full vaccination but in fact, go ahead and get the booster when the six-month time period is up,” Dr. David said.

She added that what confers the greatest protection should be the one that Guam must aim for.

“And so, I think as we go forward and as more variants emerge, what’s going to be equally important is not just the fully vaccinated rate, but the booster rate. So we need to also include that in terms of our goals and milestones,” David said.

Dr. Robert Leon Guerrero, Interim DPHSS Chief Medical Officer, said a new definition has now been added to the current vaccination terminology. He said if people have had their two vaccination shots, they are said to be fully protected. But if people have had booster shots as well, they are said to be “fully protected.”

As more data comes in, particularly about the omicron variant and how boosters are really the most protective, Dr. David said the goalposts for boosters will continue to advance.

“And so ideally, we would like to see the boosters as high as we can get them for the best protection for our island,” she said.