ISLAMABAD: British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said on Thursday a third shot of its COVID-19 vaccine effectively neutralized the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus during a recent study, as a Pakistani news channel announced six new suspected cases of infection caused by the new strain.
The omicron variant was first detected in South Africa and is said to be highly transmissible, causing severe infection among young people. Media reports indicate the new form of the virus has spread across 89 countries.
According to an AFP report, the study on AstraZeneca vaccine was carried out by the University of Oxford which also helped the pharmaceutical giant with its development.
Pakistan reported its first omicron case in Karachi on December 13, though it is suspected that 12 more people in the province of Balochistan have also contracted the new variant of the virus.
"The third dose booster vaccination neutralized the Omicron variant to levels that were broadly similar to those observed ... after the second dose against the Delta variant," AstraZeneca said in a statement.
One of the study investigators at the University of Oxford confirmed the claim.
"It is very encouraging to see that current vaccines have the potential to protect against Omicron following a third dose booster," said professor John Bell, who contributed to the study, while talking to AFP.
"These results support the use of third dose boosters as part of national vaccine strategies, especially to limit the spread of variants of concern, including Omicron."
Meanwhile, Geo News in Pakistan said six new suspected omicron cases had emerged in the country's most densely populated city of Karachi while quoting sources at the provincial health department of Sindh.
The news channel informed the suspected patients had a travel history, adding that four of them recently arrived in the country from South Africa while two others came from Britain.
The local news channel said the suspected omicron patients had been shifted to a quarantine center.
AFP said a separate research conducted in the United Kingdom suggested that omicron infections were less likely to result in hospitalization compared to the delta variant.
The Pakistan government has instructed the provincial authorities to increase the pace of its immunization drive as number of omicron cases multiply around the world.