Clinical trials of a novel Covid vaccination targeting the Omicron strain have begun at Pfizer and BioNTech
NEW YORK – Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech announced on Tuesday that they have begun a clinical trial to evaluate a new version of their vaccine designed especially to target the COVID-19 Omicron form, which has escaped some of the protection afforded by the original two-dose vaccine regimen.
The companies want to evaluate the immunological response elicited by the Omicron-based vaccination as a three-shot regimen in unvaccinated persons and as a booster injection for people who have already received two doses of their original vaccine using volunteers in the United States.
More than 1400 adults are planned to participate in the experiment, which will most likely take place in the United States.
Moderna, a business based in the United States, intends to begin testing of its own Omicron-specific injection in the near future.
AstraZeneca and Oxford University have also begun development on a new version of their vaccine.
Vaccine makers had always intended to modify their original Covid-19 vaccinations as new varieties developed, but the introduction of the fast-spreading Omicron strain in the last two months has accelerated that process.
Many countries are now providing a booster or third dose of their initial vaccine, which has been demonstrated to provide adequate protection against serious disease and death – even against Omicron.
However, protection against infection and mild symptoms is substantially lower and could deteriorate much faster.
“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,” Pfizer senior vice president and head of vaccine research and development Kathrin U. Jansen said.
“Vaccine-induced protection against infection and mild to moderate disease wanes more rapidly than was observed with prior strains,” said Prof Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, indicating the new data.
“This study is part of our science-based approach to develop a variant-based vaccine that achieves a similar level of protection against Omicron as it did with earlier variants, but with longer duration of protection,” he added.
According to the companies, they intend to produce four billion doses of their Covid-19 vaccine this year, which will include doses of the upgraded vaccine if trials show that it is required.
In the new vaccine trial, 615 individuals will get two doses of the current Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, followed by one or two doses of the Omicron-targeted vaccine.
A second group of 600 people who have already had three doses of the existing vaccine will be given another dosage of the current vaccine or the Omicron vaccine.
Finally, 200 unvaccinated adults will be given three doses of the novel Omicron-targeted vaccine.
Vaccine producers stated that new versions of their vaccines targeting the Omicron variant might be ready within 100 days of the mutation being discovered in South Africa.
However, there are still concerns about whether an improved vaccine would be any better than present versions.
They were created to combat the original virus that originated from China, as well as to provide high levels of protection against the Alpha and Delta strains.
Prof Andrew Pollard, who oversaw the development of the Oxford-AZ vaccine, recently stated that Omicron has spread so swiftly that it was “quite difficult to make and deploy an updated vaccine quickly enough” to make a difference.
This article contains materials from BBC.