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Can I get Omicron if im vaccinated?

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has spread rapidly around the world since it was first identified in November 2021. Omicron is more transmissible than previous variants and has mutations that allow it to evade some of the immunity provided by vaccination or previous infection. This has raised concerns about whether vaccines can still prevent Omicron infection.

The short answer is that while being fully vaccinated does not completely prevent Omicron infection, it does provide substantial protection against severe disease and hospitalization. However, protection from vaccines appears to wane over time, underscoring the importance of booster doses.

How effective are vaccines against Omicron?

Multiple studies have shown that while the effectiveness of vaccines is reduced against Omicron compared to previous variants, they still provide considerable protection, especially when including booster doses:

Study Findings on Vaccine Effectiveness Against Omicron Infection
UK Health Security Agency After 2 doses, AstraZeneca offered no protection, Pfizer offered 35% protection, Moderna offered 45% protection. After a booster dose, effectiveness increased to 60-75% for all vaccines.
Imperial College London After 2 doses, AstraZeneca offered no protection, Pfizer offered 19% protection. After a booster dose, protection increased to 55-80%.
Ontario Public Health After 2 doses, mRNA vaccines (Pfizer/Moderna) offered 37% protection. After a booster dose, protection increased to 61%.

These studies show that while 2 doses of mRNA vaccines offer low protection against Omicron infection, boosters can increase that protection to 50-80%. Because Omicron is newer, data on vaccine effectiveness is still emerging. But current evidence clearly demonstrates the importance of booster shots.

Does vaccination prevent severe Omicron disease?

Importantly, studies have consistently found that vaccines maintain higher effectiveness against hospitalization and severe disease from Omicron. This indicates that even if breakthrough infections occur, vaccines greatly reduce the risk of severe outcomes. For example:

Study Findings on Vaccine Effectiveness Against Severe Omicron Disease
UK Health Security Agency After 2 doses, vaccines offered 51-62% protection against hospitalization. After a booster dose, protection rose to 81-98%.
New York State Health Department Vaccine effectiveness against Omicron hospitalization was 61% with 2 doses, but increased to 91% after a booster dose.

Multiple studies from the UK, South Africa, Canada, and the US have similarly found vaccines remain 70-90% protective against hospitalization with Omicron, demonstrating their ongoing importance.

Why does vaccine effectiveness decline against Omicron?

Researchers have identified several reasons why Omicron reduces vaccine effectiveness compared to earlier variants like Delta:

– **Immune evasion:** Omicron has over 30 mutations on the spike protein targeted by antibodies induced by vaccination. This allows it to evade neutralizing antibodies more effectively.

– **Reduced binding:** Mutations like N501Y appear to reduce how well antibodies bind to the new spike protein shape, making them less effective.

– **Mutation locations:** Certain mutations are located in key sites identified as epitopes or targets for neutralizing monoclonal antibodies, allowing Omicron to escape this immunity.

– **Time since vaccination:** Antibody levels wane naturally over time after vaccination or infection. The majority of initial Omicron cases occurred in people vaccinated more than 6 months prior.

However, T-cell and memory B-cell immunity induced by vaccines appears more durable and is likely still providing protection against severe disease. The declines seen against mild infection underscore the importance of boosters to increase antibody levels.

Should I get a booster shot?

Given the reduced effectiveness against infection but retained protection against hospitalization, getting a booster shot is recommended. An additional dose restores waning immunity by triggering your immune memory.

CDC recommendations for booster shots:

– **Pfizer or Moderna:** All adults should get a booster shot 5 months after completing their primary vaccine series.

– **Johnson & Johnson:** All adults should receive a booster shot 2 months after the initial J&J dose. Following the J&J booster, an mRNA booster after 2 months provides the best immunity.

Real-world studies of boosters demonstrate they increase protective antibody levels higher than the peak after the primary series. This suggests they will provide enhanced protection against Omicron infection and severe outcomes.

Will we need Omicron-specific boosters?

Booster shots available now are the original vaccine formulation targeting the ancestral strain. Some experts believe boosters tailored to Omicron may be needed.

The benefits of an Omicron-specific booster could include:

– Directly generating neutralizing antibodies targeting Omicron.

– Potentially inducing broader immunity against Omicron sub-variants.

– Restoring optimal effectiveness of antibiotics against infection.

However, developing new variant vaccines takes time. Some advantages of current boosters:

– Still greatly improve protection against Omicron by increasing antibody levels.

– Maintain antibodies against other variants that may resurge.

– Can be deployed immediately using existing vaccine supplies.

Manufacturers like Pfizer and Moderna are testing Omicron boosters in case they are needed later in 2022 or 2023. But boosting now remains crucial to limit Omicron spread and severe disease.

How long does Omicron vaccine protection last?

It’s not yet known how long boosted vaccine protection against Omicron will remain at peak levels before starting to wane. However, early evidence suggests significant protection persists over months:

– UK data found 6 months after a booster shot, effectiveness against hospitalization remained over 90%.

– Neutralizing antibodies have been found to persist for up to 6 months after a booster.

– Memory immune responses may provide longer-lasting protection, especially against severe disease.

Continuing to monitor real-world effectiveness data will determine if and when additional boosters are required. It’s likely some degree of protection from boosters will last well beyond 6 months. But immune responses differ across age groups and by underlying health, which may factor into future booster recommendations.

Does Omicron make vaccines obsolete?

Despite evidence of immune evasion, vaccines remain hugely beneficial against Omicron. Key reasons why they are still vitally important:

– Provide robust protection against hospitalization and death. Preserving hospital capacity remains crucial.

– Reduce community transmission. Vaccinated individuals are infectious for shorter periods.

– Slow the emergence of new variants. Reducing viral replication and spread limits the risk of new mutations evading immunity.

– Prevent long COVID complications. Growing evidence links vaccines to lower long COVID risk after breakthrough infections.

– Offer cheaper, safer population immunity than mass infection. Vaccination remains the most cost-effective and ethical pandemic strategy.

– Allow returning to normal life by reducing COVID severity to flu-like levels in most cases.

Rather than making vaccines obsolete, Omicron reiterates the importance of improving vaccines to keep pace with evolving viruses. This was always expected. Meanwhile, current vaccines continue providing life-saving protection.


– Omicron evades immunity from vaccination or infection more effectively than past variants. This reduces protection against infection after two primary doses.

– However, boosters produce very strong antibody responses that remain largely protective against Omicron infection, while greatly reducing the risk of severe disease.

– Getting boosted now provides crucial short-term protection while Omicron spreads rapidly. Omicron-specific vaccines may provide advantages later if needed.

– While vaccines are not as effective against mild Omicron illness compared to ancestral strains, they still deliver enormous population health benefits. Vaccination remains essential to ending the pandemic phase.