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Pfizer Tests COVID-19 Vaccine Modified for Omicron Variant

Stockhouse Editorial
1 Comment| January 25, 2022

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Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE, Forum) rose on Tuesday after the biotech pharma company announced that it had began a study with BioNTech comparing its original COVID-19 vaccine with doses specially tweaked to match the hugely contagious Omicron variant.

The COVID-19 vaccine makers had been updating their shots to better match Omicron in case global health authorities decide the change is needed.

From a media release on this news, Pfizer’s Senior Vice President and Head of Vaccine Research & Development, Kathrin U. Jansen, Ph.D. explained that 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, the team recognized 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.

“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 to towards this goal.”

It remains unclear if a change to the vaccine recipe is needed, though Omicron is more likely than previous variants to cause infection even in people who’ve been vaccinated, though the original vaccines still offer good protection against severe illness and death. Previous studies have found that adding a booster dose can strengthen protection and improve the chances of avoiding a milder infection from Omicron.

This new US study is enrolling up to 1,420 healthy adults, aged 18 to 55, to test the updated Omicron-based shots for use as a booster or for primary vaccinations. In this study, the tweaked vaccine’s safety will be examined by researchers, who will assess how it revs up the immune system in comparison to the original shots.

The study will evaluate up to 1,420 participants across the three cohorts:

  • Cohort #1 (n = 615): Received two doses of the current Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine 90-180 days prior to enrollment; in the study, participants will receive one or two doses of the Omicron-based vaccine
  • Cohort #2 (n = 600): Received three doses of the current Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine 90-180 days prior to enrollment; in the study, participants will receive one dose of the current Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or the Omicron-based vaccine
  • Cohort #3 (n=205): Vaccine-naïve participants will receive three doses of the Omicron-based vaccine



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