December 4, 2021

Q&A #3: What will happen to the vaccinated as they get contaminated with Omicron?

Q&A with Geert Vanden Bossche #3


Hi Geert, I read your post on Omicron. I understand your explanation as to why Omicron will start out as a mild disease particularly for the unvaccinated. Infected by the significantly mutated Omicron variant, innate Abs amongst the unvaccinated, will no longer be temporarily disabled by short lived, low affinity Anti-S specific Abs generated by rapid re-infections under Delta domination. They will experience a sort of innate immunity "refresh". But that will last only until Omicron takes over to rapidly re-infect them - just like Delta did. And the short lived Anti-S specific Abs are recalled. But, what about the vaccinated? What will happen to them as they get infected with Omicron in the immediate / near term? I understand their innate system is neutralized by the vaccinal Abs and these are not going away (unlike the short lived Anti-S specific Abs in the unvaccinated). If Omicron defeats the vaccinal Abs (as Stephane Bancel himself confided), the vaccinated would be left without immune defence, wouldn't they? Would mean that Omicron could be devastating to the vaccinated?


Because Omicron is well equipped to escape from the neutralizing vaccinal Antibodies (Abs), it could, indeed, break thru vaccinal protection. I expect, that this could lead to a higher morbidity and mortality rate in vaccinees. However, provided vaccinees have had the opportunity to train their innate immunity (i.e., in countries where mass vax campaigns were less aggressive/slower), their innate Antibodies (Abs) could provide some resistance from competing vaccinal Antibodies (Abs). Especially if the latter are declining and not boosted too much by increasingly dominant Omicron. Any help from innate immunity combined with lower vaccinal Ab titers, will slow down pathogenicity such as; to enable the immune system to generate Omicron-matched Antiboies (Abs) fast enough to help patients recover from the disease.

My fear is - this will no longer be possible when the virus continues to mutate and alter its RBD as I described. In this instance, previously neutralizing Antibodies (Abs) could still bind and dramatically increase viral virulence due to ADE.

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Geert Vanden Bossche received his DVM from the University of Ghent, Belgium, and his PhD degree in Virology from the University of Hohenheim, Germany. He held adjunct faculty appointments at universities in Belgium and Germany. After his career in Academia, Geert joined several vaccine companies (GSK Biologicals, Novartis Vaccines, Solvay Biologicals) to serve various roles in vaccine R&D as well as in late vaccine development.

Geert then moved on to join the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Discovery team in Seattle (USA) as Senior Program Officer; he then worked with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) in Geneva as Senior Ebola Program Manager. At GAVI he tracked efforts to develop an Ebola vaccine. He also represented GAVI in fora with other partners, including WHO, to review progress on the fight against Ebola and to build plans for global pandemic preparedness.

Back in 2015, Geert scrutinized and questioned the safety of the Ebola vaccine that was used in ring vaccination trials conducted by WHO in Guinea. His critical scientific analysis and report on the data published by WHO in the Lancet in 2015 was sent to all international health and regulatory authorities involved in the Ebola vaccination program. After working for GAVI, Geert joined the German Center for Infection Research in Cologne as Head of the Vaccine Development Office. He is at present primarily serving as a Biotech / Vaccine consultant while also conducting his own research on Natural Killer cell-based vaccines.


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