As the highly contagious Omicron variant spreads rapidly around the world, vaccine manufacturers are scrambling to modify their previous COVID19 vaccines or develop new ones.
Now pharmaceutical giants Pfizer & BioNTech have started a clinical trial to test a new vaccine specifically designed against the Omicron variant, according to a press release published on Tuesday.
This is bad news because while people who have been vaccinated & given boosted dose seem to be better protected from serious illness & hospitalization after being infected with Omicron, the variant has nevertheless led to breakthroughs cases and an increase in infections.
“While current research & real-world data show that boosters continue to provide a high level of protection against serious illness & hospitalization with Omicron, we recognize the need to be prepared in the event that this protection wanes with time and potentially help address Omicron and new variants in the future,” said Kathrin U. Jansen, Pfizer senior vice president & head of vaccine research and development, said in a statement.
“Staying vigilant against the virus requires us to identify new approaches for people to maintain a high level of protection and we believe that the development & study of variant-based vaccines, such as this one, are essential in our efforts. to reach this goal.
Clinical trials for omicron variant vaccine
The new vaccine will be tested for safety, tolerability & level of immunological response in up to 1,420 healthy adults aged 18-55, both in the primary series & as a booster dose.
Participants will be divided into 3 groups, with each group receiving 1,2 or 3 doses of the vaccine. One group will include people who have already received 2 doses of the current Pfizer BioNTech vaccine and will also receive Omicron vaccine.
Another group will receive Omicron vaccine in addition to the 3 doses of Pfizer’s current vaccine. Unvaccinated individuals, This will make-up the 3rd group, will receive 3 shots of the Omicron vaccine.
The companies also stated that they want to do a same research in the US to test people over the age of 55, a fact that a spokesman for Pfizer has confirmed the CNN that the company has already begun to produce this vaccine.
“In the wake of Omicron, we are pro-actively researching and producing at risk a Omicron based vaccine should it need, but, of course, we need to have results and discussions with health authorities, as well as approvals prior to its distribution,” the CNN spokesperson said.
In the meantime, Moderna also plans to begin trials of its own Omicron-specific vaccine, with the Oxford University & AstraZeneca developing a new version of their vaccine. The vaccines we currently have have been shown to protect people from the worst consequences of COVID19; however, as the virus continues to evolve, it appears drug makers may need to continue developing strain-specific vaccines as new variants are introduced.
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