Jan 25, 2022 - Health

Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific COVID vaccine

A health worker in Palestine preparing a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine on Jan. 24.
A health worker in Palestine preparing a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine on Jan. 24. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech announced Tuesday that they have started clinical trials for a reformulated vaccine to protect against the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Why it matters: The rise of the Omicron variant has forced vaccine makers to reassess the effectiveness of their vaccines.

  • Data has shown that booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were effective at neutralizing Omicron. But just two doses of it were far less effective against the new variant.

What they're saying: “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,” said Kathrin Jansen, Pfizer's head of vaccine research and development in a statement.

The big picture: The trial will involve up to 1,420 participants across the three cohorts.

  • One of the groups will receive two doses of the companies' COVID vaccine, another will receive two doses and a booster dose of their vaccine, while the last will receive the Omicron-based vaccine.
  • Pfizer and BioNTech said it plans to manufacture four billion doses of the vaccine in 2022 and said that would not change even if an adapted vaccine is required.

Go deeper: The end of the Omicron wave is in sight

Go deeper