Pfizer Opens Study on COVID Vaccines Updated to Comply with Omicron

Pfizer began the study by comparing its original COVID-19 vaccine with doses tailored to match the highly contagious omicron variant.

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech announced the study on Tuesday.

COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers are updating their shots to better fit the omicron, in case global health authorities decide a change is needed.

Although Omicron is more likely than previous options to cause infection even in people who have been vaccinated, it is not yet clear whether a change in the vaccine prescription is necessary.

The original vaccines still provide good protection against severe illness and death. Studies in the US and other countries have clearly shown that adding a booster dose enhances this protection and increases the chances of avoiding a milder infection.

“We recognize the need to be prepared for this protection to weaken over time and potentially help address the omicron challenge and new options in the future,” Katherine Jansen, head of vaccine research at Pfizer, said in a statement.

Up to 1,420 healthy adults, aged 18 to 55, are participating in a new US study to test updated omicron-based vaccines for use as a booster or primary vaccine. The researchers will study the safety of the modified vaccine and how it boosts the immune system compared to the original shots.

In one study group, about 600 volunteers who received two doses of the current Pfizer vaccine three to six months ago will receive one or two doses of the omicron-based vaccine as a booster dose. An additional 600 people who have already received three regular doses of Pfizer’s vaccine will receive a fourth dose of either the regular vaccine or the omicron-matched version.

The study will also include several unvaccinated volunteers who will receive three doses of the omicron-based vaccine.

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