Pfizer and its German partner on Tuesday launched a clinical study that will evaluate an updated version of their COVID-19 vaccine.
The updated formulation targets Omicron, a variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus. Omicron became dominant in the United States last month; the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has proven much less effective, especially against infection, versus the strain.
The study is enrolling up to 1,420 healthy adults aged 18 to 55. The participants will be divided into three cohorts. One group had already received two doses of the vaccine and will get one or two doses of the Omicron-based shot; another had already received three shots of the current vaccine and will receive one dose of the current vaccine or the Omicron-based jab; the third has not received any shots and will get three doses of the Omicron-based vaccine.
“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,” Kathrin Jansen, senior vice president and head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer, said in a statement.
“Vaccines continue to offer strong protection against severe disease caused by Omicron. Yet, emerging data indicate vaccine-induced protection against infection and mild to moderate disease wanes more rapidly than was observed with prior strains,” Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, added. “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.”
The study will take place in the United States and South Africa, a Pfizer spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an email. Results are expected by the third quarter and “we will share updates as we are able to,” the spokesperson said.
Originally, the Pfizer shot and other COVID-19 vaccines were promoted as being highly effective at protecting against infection, severe disease, and death. However, that effectiveness drops as time goes on, especially against the Omicron variant, prompting the push for boosters, or additional shots.
Early data on boosters against Omicron indicates much of the lost protection is restored but that the protection against both infection and severe disease drops within weeks.
Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla said last week that he hopes the company’s vaccine will be strong enough to only need application once a year, as opposed to booster doses being administered every four or five months.
Pfizer is ready to file for authorization from U.S. drug regulators for the Omicron-based vaccine provided the study shows the tweaked shot is safe and effective, he added.