Is it too late for an Omicron-specific vaccine?

key takeaways

  • Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla has said a vaccine for Omicron will be ready by March.
  • Some experts worry that the vaccine is too late, and focusing on the fourth dose could create challenges for global vaccine distribution.
  • Pfizer said it is continuing to evaluate demand for the Omicron vaccine, as well as other variant vaccines.

A COVID-19 vaccine targeting a variant of Omicron will be ready by March 2022, Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said.

While a vaccine could be an important line of defense against Omicron, some experts aren’t sure whether the timing of distribution is in line with public demand.

“Will it be too late? When it is established with a modified Omicron vaccine, will Omicron [surge] Is it over, reaching the top? we do not know. ” Peiyong Shi, Ph.D., Distinguished Chair in Molecular Biology Innovation at the University of Texas Medical Branch told VigorTip.

Although Omicron case rates are declining in some regions, a variant-specific vaccine is not impossible, Shi said. He added that Pfizer is making the new vaccine at risk because it has not yet been approved or authorized by health authorities, but the process is necessary.

“These drills are absolutely needed for pandemic preparedness,” Shi said.

Is Omicron really gentler?

In an email to VigorTip, a Pfizer spokesperson wrote that the company expects to have clinical and real-world data on the Omicron vaccine in February or March 2022, which will help inform their discussions with health authorities. information for discussions. It is unclear whether the Omicron vaccine is required.

“To date, the virus has not escaped vaccine protection, with more than 842 million people vaccinated globally,” a Pfizer spokesperson wrote. “We will also continue to evaluate real-world data, including fourth dose use, We will continue to work with regulatory and health authorities to ensure we remain vigilant as we respond to this pandemic.”

The company added that the best course of action is to first ensure that as many people as possible are fully vaccinated and boosted. Pfizer did not comment on details about eligible age groups, doses or timeframes if the fourth dose of the original series or the Omicron-specific vaccine were to be approved.

Preliminary data from two clinical trials in Israel show that a fourth dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine provides only partial protection against the virus.

Pfizer says three doses of its COVID-19 vaccine protect against Omicron

Are variant-specific vaccines required?

When assessing the need for an Omicron-specific vaccine, it’s important to consider the currently licensed vaccine series and the effectiveness of booster shots, Shi said. Whether we should transition to a vaccine with a specific variant will depend on how real-world conditions guide us, he added.

A fourth dose of Pfizer’s vaccine, or variant-specific vaccine, could present logistical challenges in global distribution. For example, an Omicron vaccine may not be feasible where Omicron is not the main variant, Shi said.

Once the vaccine sequence is tailored to protect against Omicron, the vaccine will protect Omicron better than other variants, such as Delta, Shi said. It may also be necessary to predict which variants will spread when and where for a particular strain.

“You may need to prescribe a different vaccine sequence to specifically target the variant in that particular region,” Shi said, adding that the logistics could be confusing to some extent.

To fight new COVID variants, U.S. must ramp up vaccine efforts globally

Pfizer is continuing to evaluate potential demand for an Omicron-specific vaccine, as well as vaccines targeting other variants, according to a company spokesperson.

For now, Shi said, people should continue to focus on getting vaccinated and boosting with existing vaccines whenever possible. Going forward, it is important to further study the durability of the current booster and upcoming studies on a potential Omicron-specific vaccine.

“When the omega light wave subsides, what’s next?” Shi said. “It’s a very important issue and I don’t think anyone knows at the moment.”

what does this mean to you

Current methods of protection against COVID-19 and circulating variants include vaccination, booster shots, masking, and social distancing protocols. By March, there may also be variant-specific vaccines for Omicron variants.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may have updated information as you read this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus news page.