Omicron Breakthrough Cases Boost Protection, Studies Say

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Vaccinated people who have a breakthrough case of Omicron will have better protection against COVID-19 variants than vaccinated people who receive a booster shot, two new studies show.

The University of Washington, working with Vir Biotechnology of San Francisco, looked at blood samples of vaccinated people who had breakthrough cases of Delta or Omicron and compared the samples with three other groups: people who caught COVID and were later vaccinated, vaccinated people who were never infected, and people who were infected and never vaccinated.

The vaccinated people who had a breakthrough case of Omicron produced antibodies that helped protect against coronavirus variants, whereas unvaccinated people who caught Omicron didn’t produce as many antibodies, the study showed.

BioNTech SE, the German biotechnology company, found that people who’d been double and triple vaccinated and then became infected with Omicron had a better b-cell response than people who’d gotten a booster shot but had not been infected. B-cells help produce antibodies.

The University of Washington research team also came up with similar findings about b-cells. Both studies were published recently in bioRxiv. Papers hosted on bioRxiv have not yet been peer-reviewed. They undergo basic screening and are checked against plagiarism.

The findings don’t mean people should deliberately try to become infected with COVID, said Alexandra Walls, one of the University of Washington scientists, according to Business Standard.

But the study does indicate “that we are at the point where we may want to consider having a different vaccine to boost people,” said David Veesler of the University of Washington team.

“We should think about breakthrough infections as essentially equivalent to another dose of vaccine,” John Wherry, a professor and director of the Institute for Immunology at the University of Pennsylvania, told Business Standard. Wherry was not involved in the study but reviewed the BioNTech study.


bioRxiv. “Imprinted antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 Omicron sublineages”

bioRxiv. “Omicron breakthrough infection drives cross-variant neutralization and memory B cell formation”

Business Standard: “Omicron infection turbo-charges vaccinated people’s Covid immunity: Study”

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