Pfizer-BioNTech begins clinical trial of vaccine against Omicron

Pfizer is looking to develop a vaccine against Covid-19 that specifically targets the Omicron variant.

The Pfizer-BioNTech alliance has started recruiting for a clinical trial that aims to test, in adults aged 55 and younger, the safety and immune response of its covid-19 vaccine, which specifically targets the Omicron variant, the two companies announced Tuesday. The head of the American laboratory Pfizer, Albert Bourla, had declared in early January that the pharmaceutical giant could be ready to request authorizations for the new vaccine, which targets this variant of Covid-19, starting in March.

While current data indicates that booster doses of the original vaccine protect against severe forms of Omicron, the company prefers to err on the side of caution, Pfizer chief vaccine officer Kathrin Jansen said in the statement. “We recognize the importance of being prepared in the event that this protection declines over time and to help address Omicron and other variants in the future,” he said.

For the general director of the German company BioNTech Ugur Sahin, the protection of the initial vaccine against mild or moderate forms of Covid-19 seems to disappear more quickly compared to Omicron. “This study is carried out within the framework of our scientific approach that aims to develop vaccines directed against variants that manage to develop similar levels of protection against Omicron, as for the variants that appeared before, but with a longer duration of protection. ”, he explained. .

How is the clinical trial carried out?

The clinical trial involves 1,420 people between the ages of 18 and 55. The trial does not include people over 55 years of age because the aim of the study is to measure the immune response of the participants, not to estimate the efficacy of the vaccine, a Pfizer company told AFP.

The trial participants are divided into three groups. The first includes people who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the previous 90 to 180 days, who will receive one or two injections of the new tested serum. The second is made up of people who received their 3rd dose, or booster, during this same period and who will receive either a new dose of the initial vaccine or a dose of the vaccine designed against Omicron. The third includes people who have not received any vaccine against Covid-19 and who will receive three doses of the one specifically targeted at Omicron.

The initial vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech had been the first authorized in Western countries, in December 2020. Its design, based on messenger RNA technology, allows it to be relatively easy to modify and update to follow the evolution of specific mutations of new variants.

Several countries have begun to see a drop in cases due to the wave caused by Omicron, the most transmissible variant detected at this stage, although the number of contaminations in the world continues to increase.

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