Pfizer, BioNTech Begin Clinical Trials For Omicron-Specific Vaccine
By Alexa Heah, 27 Jan 2022
In recent months, news about the COVID-19 Delta variant have turned into concerns about Omicron, the new strain of the virus that’s spreading across the world.
Though most people have had their first two vaccination shots, and perhaps the booster, Pfizer and BioNTech are looking to develop a shot specifically for the new variant.
A separate vaccine could be a necessity for Omicron, considering that the new wave has caused a sharp rise in infections and exceeded hospitalization records.
“While current research and real-world data show that boosters continue to provide a high level of protection against severe disease and hospitalization with Omicron, we recognize the need to be prepared in the event this protection wanes over time and to potentially help address Omicron and new variants in the future,” explained Kathrin U Jansen, Senior Vice President of Pfizer.
“Staying vigilant against the virus requires us to identify new approaches for people to maintain a high level of protection, and we believe developing and investigating variant-based vaccines, like this one, are essential in our efforts towards this goal,” she added.
According to Interesting Engineering, the new vaccine will head for human clinical trials, where it will be tested for safety, tolerability, and the body’s immunological response in up to 1,420 healthy adults between the ages 18 and 55.
The group will be split into three sections, with some receiving two doses of the normal vaccine followed by the targeted Omicron shot, the second batch having three doses of the current injection and one Omicron vaccine, and the final group of unvaccinated individuals receiving three doses of the Omicron-specific shot.
In total, as per the BBC, the companies predict they will produce four billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this year, which will include the shot against the new variant should the trials suggest it’s effective.
In anticipation of the demand for the targeted vaccine should the Omicron strain become even worse in the coming months, a Pfizer spokesperson told CNN that it had already started producing doses of the shot.
“In the wake of Omicron, we are proactively investigating and manufacturing at risk an Omicron-based vaccine should it be needed, but we, of course, need to have results and discussions with health authorities as well as approvals before it would be deployed,” the spokesperson said.
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