A landmark Israeli trial is expected to show that four shots of vaccine didn’t stop infection by the Omicron variant, according to reports.
While the extra dose seemed to have some effect, infection rates in the study were not substantially different from those with three doses.
“The vaccine, which was very effective against the previous strains, is less effective against the Omicron strain,” Regev-Yochay said.
“We see an increase in antibodies, higher than after the third dose. However, we see many infected with Omicron who received the fourth dose,” she added.
“The bottom line is that the vaccine is excellent against the Alpha and Delta [variants], for Omicron, it’s not good enough,” Regev-Yochay concluded.
She said that it is still likely a good idea to give the fourth shot to those at higher risk.
The hospital has not released more specific data as of now. Regev-Yochay said the research results are only preliminary. She told The Times of Israel she provided the initial information due to high public interest in the study.
If confirmed and vetted by other scientists after publication, the findings could bolster calls for the development of a new version of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have publicly stated that they have begun the development of new variations of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Sheba Medical Center published a statement calling for “continuing the vaccination drive for risk groups at this time, even though the vaccine doesn’t provide optimal protection against getting infected with the variant.” The statement came just hours after the comments by Regev-Yochay were published.
The Health Ministry didn’t like the publication of the study’s initial results.
Despite the lack of data, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has pushed ahead with expanding Israel’s fourth dose program.
As of last week, more than 500,000 Israelis have been given a fourth dose. Last month, the Health Ministry began offering fourth vaccine shots to Israelis 60 and older, the immunocompromised, and medical workers.
Sheba’s trial program began in December with 150 medical staff being given the shot, a much smaller study than most drug trials. However, it is also the only known study of the effects of a fourth dose.
Israel has expected that the extra booster may help keep the Omicron variant from overwhelming hospitals and disrupting everyday life.