- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Pfizer and BioNTech on Tuesday launched a clinical study to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine that targets omicron, the globally dominant variant.

The study will include 1,420 people ages 18 to 55.

Omicron’s spread has been so fast that it elbowed out variants, including delta. Scientists, though, aren’t sure if a specially tailored shot will be needed, or if it is best to stick with boosting existing products to cover a panoply of variants, especially if a new one takes omicron’s place at the top.

“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 U. Jansen, senior vice president and head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer.

The study will be divided into three parts. The drugmaker said 615 people who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 90-180 days before enrollment will receive one or two doses of the omicron-specific vaccine.

Six hundred people who received three doses of the vaccine 90-180 days before the study will receive one shot of either the omicron vaccine or the existing vaccine.

And 205 unvaccinated participants will get three doses of the omicron vaccine.

Pfizer said it still expects to produce 4 billion doses of a COVID-19 vaccine during 2022, even if it adds an omicron-specific shot.

It is studying an omicron-specific vaccine as the variant causes record case surges and hospitalizations across the U.S.

Reported infections are starting to drop, making scientists optimistic that the worst is over. Daily deaths are averaging 2,000 in the U.S., or below the peak of 3,200 per day last January.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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