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Pfizer and BioNTech launch clinical study of vaccine targeting omicron

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Pfizer and BioNTech launch clinical study of vaccine targeting omicron

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A ten-year-old receives the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut on November 2, 2021.

Joseph Prezioso | AFP | Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech on Tuesday launched a clinical study to assess the safety and efficacy of a vaccine that targets the Covid omicron variant, amid growing concerns that current vaccines are not resistant to infections and mild illnesses. caused by the strain discovered just over two months ago.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC earlier this month that the company will have a vaccine targeting omicron ready by March. The vaccine will also target other variants of Covid that are circulating, Bourla said.

BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said there is growing evidence that the effectiveness of the current vaccine against mild to moderate omicron infections and illnesses declines faster compared to previous strains of the virus. . The goal is to develop a vaccine that provides long-lasting protection against omicron, Sahin said in a statement Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in a study published last week that a booster dose of Pfizer’s vaccine was 90% effective in preventing hospitalization from omicron 14 days after the third dose was given. injection.

Booster doses are also up to 75% effective in preventing symptomatic infection with omicron two to four weeks after the third injection, according to UK Health Security Agency data released earlier this month. However, the study found that the recalls weaken significantly after about 10 weeks, providing 45% to 50% protection against symptomatic infection.

“While current research and real-world data show that reminders continue to provide a high level of protection against serious illness and hospitalization with omicron, we recognize the need to be prepared in the event that this protection wanes with time and potentially help address omicron and new variants in the future,” Kathrin Jansen, head of vaccine development at Pfizer, said in a statement.

The Pfizer and BioNTech clinical study will evaluate up to 1,420 participants.

Bourla told CNBC earlier this month that he doesn’t know if an omicron-specific vaccine is needed at this time or how it will be used. However, Pfizer will have the vaccine ready as many countries request it as soon as possible, he said.

“The hope is that we will come up with something that will provide much better protection, especially against infection,” Bourla said.

The omicron variant has dozens of mutations, including many on the spike protein the virus uses to invade human cells. Current vaccines, developed in 2020 against the original viral strain, target the spike. It becomes more difficult for vaccine-induced antibodies to block the virus as the peak mutates further and further away from the original strain detected in Wuhan, China.

Omicron, first detected in Botswana and South Africa in November, has spread faster than previous variants, causing an unprecedented wave of infection around the world.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday more than 80 million Covid cases have been reported to the WHO since the omicron variant was identified just nine weeks ago. – more than reported in 2020.

However, people don’t usually get as sick with omicron compared to the delta variant. But because omicron has mutated so far from the original strain that vaccines were developed to combat, it causes milder infections, raising concerns that it could lead to disruptions of essential services, as many people call sick.

Pfizer and BioNTech launch clinical study of vaccine targeting omicron

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