Pfizer to start study evaluating omicron-based COVID vaccine

Posted at 6:07 PM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 18:07:44-05

On Tuesday, Pfizer announced it is starting a clinical study to evaluate the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of an omicron-based vaccine in healthy adults who are 18 through 55. Local health experts are weighing in on what’s behind the study and what it means for you.

Pfizer says the study will have three groups looking at different regimens of the current Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine or an omicron-based vaccine. The company says it’s part of their ongoing efforts to address omicron and determine the potential need for variant-based vaccines.

“It’s like the Boy Scouts, right? Be prepared,” said Dr. Michael Teng, an associate professor at USF Health.

Dr. Teng explains this is in preparation in case it becomes necessary to start using omicron as the baseline.

“As long as there’s transmission of the virus, more variants can pop up, but what we’re trying to do is to make sure we’re prepared for the next potential variant,” said Teng. “If the next variant is a derivative of omicron, then an omicron-specific vaccine will be a great help in trying to block transmission of that new variant.”

Dr. Teng explains mRNA vaccine platforms are really adaptable. Pfizer points out that data continues to find people who are vaccinated, especially those who have gotten a booster, maintain a high level of protection against omicron.

“Even with all of these variants, with all the different changes, we still have pretty good coverage of the variants with the original vaccine,” said Teng.

For anyone who is feeling any vaccine fatigue, Dr. Teng explains this is about being prepared.

“With the development of the omicron vaccine, it’s not that we’re trying to vaccinate against omicron to defeat this wave of omicron,” said Teng. “It’s just to set up the next phase in case the next variant that comes out is based on omicron.”

“It’s going to be a while before we need, I think, before we need a new vaccine, but it’s always good to have one kind of in development to make sure that, if necessary, it could be easily changed out,” said Dr. Teng.