Pfizer, BioNTech Developing Omicron-specific Vaccine

Written by Via Roderos, MD, MBA · Internal or General Medicine

Updated Mar 30, 2022

    Pfizer, BioNTech Developing Omicron-specific Vaccine

    Pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and BioNTech have announced something big in the battle against COVID-19. The companies have started testing a vaccine specifically aimed at the Omicron variant. Read on to learn more about this new Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.

    Omicron has overtaken Delta as the dominant coronavirus strain and has been more contagious than previous strains. Data shows that the current vaccine continues to protect against a severe onslaught of COVID. However, it is less effective at preventing infection with the virus. The Omicron-specific Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is addresses the need to increase the protection provided by the existing vaccine.

    Omicron quickly dominating

    On January 12, The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the Omicron variant continues to define the pandemic globally, crowding out the previously dominant Delta variant. The new strain was first detected in South Africa in late November 2021 and it accounts for nearly 59% of all sequences shared with the largest publicly available database of viruses.

    The WHO said then that Omicron had proven to have a shorter doubling time and it was able to “evade immunity” based on evidence gathered. Furthermore, numerous studies suggested that it is less severe compared to prior variants.

    Current vaccines in the market

    The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved eight kinds of vaccines. Pfizer BioNTech, Gamaleya Sputnik V, and Novavax have two doses to be given three weeks apart. Sinovac CoronaVac, Bharat BioTech, and Moderna have two doses to be given 28 days apart. The two doses of Oxford AstraZeneca should be administered 4 to 12 weeks apart. Janssen only requires one dose.

    For everyone who has completed their earlier shots, a booster is encouraged. The WHO detailed three reasons for getting a booster:

    • For immunocompromised people, it may be necessary to receive a third dose. This is when the first two doses aren’t doing what they do in otherwise normal, healthy people.
    • Over time, the immunity that you received and achieved as a result of being vaccinated may wane. It starts to deteriorate or go down over time
    • If the performance of the vaccines are less or inadequate against some of the variants of concern that have emerged

    As of January 26, 2022, there have been 15,789 new COVID-19 cases and 66 new deaths reported in the Philippines. These numbers have been going down since the most recent spike. There were 32,633 new cases and 156 new deaths as recently as January 21. This increase in cases coincides with the rise of the Omicron variant. The collective hope is that the cases will continue to go down as they did this past December.

    Pfizer BioNTech vaccine against Omicron

    The new Pfizer BioNTech study will include more than 1,400 people divided into three groups. One group includes people who have been vaccinated with two doses of the current vaccine. They will receive one or two doses of the new Omicron vaccine.

    Those who have been vaccinated and boosted with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are in another group. They will receive a fourth dose of the existing vaccine or a dose of the Omicron shot. The final group includes unvaccinated people who will get three doses of the Omicron vaccine.

    The findings will allow researchers to compare infections and symptoms among people who are currently vaccinated and who get one dose or two doses of the Omicron shot. They will be compared with those who have been boosted with the current vaccine and receive a dose of the Omicron vaccine.

    The data from the American pharmaceutical giant and the German biotechnology company will help scientists and public health experts to learn more about the benefits of variant-specific vaccines. This will also determine if variant-specific vaccines will be necessary going forward.

    Key takeaways

    Pfizer and BioNTech are developing a vaccine specifically to combat the COVID-19 Omicron variant. The Omicron variant has quickly become the dominant coronavirus strain. Current vaccines and boosters in the market are the first line of defense against the coronavirus. The spike in COVID-19 cases in the Philippines has coincided with the rise of Omicron globally. A number of reasons have been given for the development of Pfizer BioNTech vaccine against Omicron. One reason is to determine if variant-specific vaccines will be necessary from now on.

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    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Written by

    Via Roderos, MD, MBA

    Internal or General Medicine

    Updated Mar 30, 2022