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Omicron: The escape mutant

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People receive COVID-19 booster vaccination in Michigan
FILE PHOTO: A nurses fills up syringes for patients as they receive their coronavirus disease (COVID-19) booster vaccination during a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination clinic in Southfield, Michigan, U.S., September 29, 2021.

The omicron variant of the COVID virus dramatically reduces the effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine, according to new research out of South Africa. The two-shot vaccine is only protective against COVID infection 33% of the time. The vaccine does seem to keep people infected with omicron from getting sick enough to need to go to the hospital around 70% of the time, but that is also a sharp drop from the more than 90% protection from hospitalization conferred by the vaccine to the delta variant.

Pfizer claims adding a third shot brings immunity back up to pre-omicron levels.

In this episode of Petrie Dish, Texas Biomedical Research Institute infectious disease and vaccine expert Jean Patterson explains what's different about omicron, the concept of vaccine escape, and what we need to do to protect ourselves from an omicron surge in the United States.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Bioscience and Medicine News Desk including UT Health San Antonio and Dr. Johnny and Joni Reyna, supporting prostate cancer research and early detection to save lives.

Bonnie Petrie can be reached at Bonnie@TPR.org and on Twitter at @kbonniepetrie