Mayo experts: Vaccines, antibodies likely to be somewhat effective against Omicron

There’s still a lot unknown about the Omicron variant of COVID-19, but experts from the Mayo Clinic say existing vaccines and therapies are likely to be somewhat effective against the new variant.

Dr. Andrew Badley, the chair of the Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 task force, said there are reports that people get less sick from the Omicron variant, something he called a "very good thing." He also said that existing vaccines are likely to offer some protection.

"I think it is probable that some of the vaccine-induced protection or some of the monoclonal antibodies may have slightly reduced activity against the Omicron variant, but I don’t think it’s correct to say that it’ll have no protection," Badley said during a media conference call on Monday.

"I think this is very much a glass half-full likely scenario that there’s likely to be ongoing activity of all of our therapies against the Omicron variant," he said.

Mayo Clinic has given almost 20,000 monoclonal antibody infusions to treat COVID-19 since Novemver 2020.

Dr. Raymund Razonable, who leads Mayo’s monoclonal antibody program, said it is "concerning" that the antibodies may have reduced efficacy due to mutations in the Omicron variant, but he said it’s not an all-or-none scenario.

"There may be some reduction but it probably may still be beneficial. I also want to point out that vaccination is going to be the main protection from this," Razonable said.

For now, Razonable said we are "still in the era of Delta" and said all of the monoclonal antibodies they have available are effective for the Delta variant. He said the treatment has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization, death, and the need for treatment in an intensive care unit.

Badley said he thinks we will see "lots more" cases of Omicron variant detected.

"I don’t think it’s going to be going away anytime soon," Badley said of COVID-19.