Amid rising cases of COVID-19, Pfizer has started enrolling healthy adults to test a reformulated vaccine that matches the highly contagious Omicron variant. This will help the company to see how it compares with the original shots. The study was announced by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech on Tuesday.
COVID-19 vaccine-makers have been updating their shots in a bid to better match Omicron. This is important in case health authorities around the globe decide the change is needed.
Omicron is more likely than previous COVID-19 variants to cause infection even in people who’ve been vaccinated, but it’s not yet clear that a change to the vaccine recipe will be ordered.
Some of the first places to face an omicron surge already are seeing the mutant wane — and there’s no way to know if the next variant that arises will resemble omicron or be totally different.
The original vaccines still offer good protection against severe illness and death. Studies in the United States and elsewhere have made clear that adding a booster dose strengthens that protection and improves the chances of avoiding even a milder infection.
“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, Pfizer’s vaccine research chief, said in a statement.
Up to 1,420 volunteers aged between 18 to 55 are part of the study to test the updated omicron-based shots for use as a booster or for primary vaccinations.
Researchers will examine the tweaked vaccine’s safety and how it revs up the immune system in comparison to the original shots.
Full study results will take many months as volunteers receive multiple vaccine doses — and as researchers measure how long virus-fighting antibodies remain at high levels after an omicron-adapted dose versus the regular booster.