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Pfizer-BioNTech say Omicron-based Covid shots improve variant-specific response

Advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration are scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss whether to update Covid-19 vaccines for the fall.

Reuters
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A pedestrian walks past the Pfizer headquarters building in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, Dec 7, 2020. Photo: Reuters
A pedestrian walks past the Pfizer headquarters building in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, Dec 7, 2020. Photo: Reuters

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE said on Saturday that a booster dose of updated versions of their Covid-19 vaccine, modified specifically to combat the Omicron coronavirus variant, generated a higher immune response against that variant.

Advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration are scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss whether to update Covid-19 vaccines for the fall. The updated shots are likely to be redesigned to combat the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, experts say.

Pfizer and BioNTech said that 30 and 60 microgram doses of a shot targeting just the BA.1 Omicron sub-variant that was circulating last winter elicited a 13.5 and 19.6-fold increase in neutralising geometric titers against that sub-variant.

A version of the shot that contained both the redesigned vaccine and their original vaccine elicited a 9.1 and 10.9-fold increase, they said.

The results were from a trial of 1,234 people aged 56 or older. The shots were well-tolerated in participants, the companies said.

They said that early laboratory studies suggest that both Omicron-modified candidates neutralise the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants that have been circulating more recently, though to a lesser extent than they do for BA.1, with titers approximately 3-fold lower.

The companies say they are continuing to collect data on how well the boosters perform versus the more recently circulating strains.

Moderna Inc has also made a redesigned vaccine targeting the BA.1 Omicron sub-variant. The company said its updated vaccine worked well against more recent Omicron sub-variants, and that it was moving forward with plans to ask regulators for approval.

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