By Sydney Joa, 11th Grade
Ever since the appearance of the relatively new and highly-contagious Omicron variant, Covid-19 vaccine-makers have been fine-tuning the original vaccines to help fight the rapid spread of the virus. Despite the fact that those who have been vaccinated and boosted seem to be better protected against Omicron-related severe illnesses and hospitalization, the highly contagious variant has nonetheless resulted in a breakout of cases and an increase in total infections all around the world. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech have begun clinical trials on healthy adults of their new Covid-19 vaccination that specifically targets the Omicron variant. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca and Moderna are currently working on their own Omicron-specific doses.
The vaccine will be tested for safety, tolerability, and immunological response in almost 1,420 healthy adults between ages 18 to 55 as both a primary and a booster shot. The study is going to be divided into three groups: participants who have received two doses of the current Pfizer vaccination will receive the Omicron-specific one in one or two doses; volunteers who have received three doses of the current vaccine will receive the existing Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine or the Omicron-specific one in one dosage; and the remaining group, who are unvaccinated, will receive three doses of the Omicron-specific vaccination. BioNTech’s CEO and co-founder Professor Ugur Sahin explained that, “This study is part of our science-based approach to develop a variant-based vaccine that achieves a similar level of protection against Omicron as it did with earlier variants but with longer duration of protection.”
However, as volunteers receive these vaccination doses and researchers monitor and compare the original dosage with the Omicron-specific one (in regards to how long the virus-fighting antibodies persist at high levels), the complete study results will take more than a few months. This means authorization of the vaccine will likely take longer as the timeline remains unclear, which has brought up doubts about whether the study is even worth it. Some of the initial areas hit by an Omicron outbreak are already seeing the mutation fade and there’s no way of knowing whether the next variant will be similar to Omicron or completely different.
Regardless of the doubts, being vaccinated and getting the booster shots are efficient at retaining a significant level of protection against Omicron, therefore it is highly encouraged that you go get vaccinated if you haven’t yet!
- Herper, M. (2022, January 25). As Pfizer and BioNTech begin clinical trial of Omicron-based vaccine, timeline to authorization is unclear. Stat News. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://www.statnews.com/2022/01/25/pfizer-biontech-begin-trial-omicron-based-vaccine/
- Neergaard, L. (2022, January 25). Pfizer begins testing omicron-matched COVID shots in adults. ABC News. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/pfizer-opens-study-covid-shots-updated-match-omicron-82458260
- Roxby, P. (2022, January 25). Pfizer and BioNTech start trials of new Omicron-specific jab. BBC. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/news/health-60131986
- Sealy, A. (2022, January 25). Pfizer and BioNTech begin clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine. CNN. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://edition.cnn.com/2022/01/25/health/pfizer-biontech-omicron-vaccine-trial/index.html