Clinical trials have begun for the new Pfizer and BioNTech vaccination version that is specifically designed to target the latest Covid variant Omicron. Omicron has eluded some of the protection that is provided by the original two-dose vaccination.
The trial is counting on volunteers in the United States. The companies plan on testing people’s immune response generated by the specific Omicron-based vaccination in three ways.
One, by giving a three-shot vaccination regime to people who are completely unvaccinated, and two, by providing the specific vaccination as a third booster shot to those who have received their original doses of the vaccine, but have not yet gotten the booster.
The third test is being conducted on individuals who have gotten their full vaccination and booster shot, meaning this will be their fourth Covid vaccination jab. The test is comparing a fourth dose of the current vaccine against a fourth dose of the Omicron-specific vaccination. It will be given to those who got their booster shot three to six months prior.
The companies will be looking at the safety and tolerability of the vaccination shots in the trial, expected to include more than 1,400 people.
The head of Pfizer’s vaccine research and development, Kathrin Jansen, said that the company recognizes the need to be prepared in case vaccine protection wanes over time and that studying the new potential of variant-specific vaccination boosters will help address not only Omicron, but new variants in the future.
Jansen said that current research and data from around the world show that boosters do offer high levels of protection against being severely ill or being hospitalized from Covid, as well as against dying from the disease.
Pfizer has stated that the original vaccination dosage of two shots may not be sufficient in protecting against Omicron, and also that the vaccination protection against death and hospitalization may be waning.