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Pfizer (PFE), BioNTech Begin Omicron-Based COVID-19 Jab Study

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Pfizer (PFE - Free Report) and its partner for COVID-19 vaccine BioNTech (BNTX - Free Report) initiated a clinical study to evaluate an Omicron-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which is expected to be better at preventing infection from Omicron.

The first participants enrolled in the study have received the Omicron-based vaccine candidate as a two-dose primary series and as a booster dose. The study, which is being conducted in healthy adults 18 through 55 years of age, will include some participants from the companies’ phase III COVID-19 booster study. The study will include three cohorts that will evaluate different regimens of the present COVID-19 vaccine or an Omicron-based vaccine. Earlier this month, Pfizer’s chief executive officer (CEO) had said in an interview to CNBC that their Omicron vaccine would be ready in March.

Pfizer’s stock has risen 52% in the past year compared with an increase of 16.6% for the industry.

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Germany-based BioNTech’s shares have risen 46.1% in the past year against the industry’s decrease of 37.9%.

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Data from preliminary laboratory studies, announced in December 2021, showed that three doses of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID vaccine neutralized against infection with the Omicron variant, while two doses showed significantly reduced neutralization titers. The data showed that the third dose increased the antibodies against the Omicron variant by 25-fold compared to the two doses. The data indicated that though two shots of the vaccine may still be effective at preventing severe infection caused by the Omicron variant, the protection gets better with a third shot.

Infection rates due to the Omicron variant are reaching record highs globally due to its ability to bypass the protection provided by the currently available vaccines. Though the currently available COVID-19 vaccines and their booster doses are preventing severe infections, hospitalization and death, the protection they offer eventually weakens over time. However, to maintain a high level of protection against Omicron and future variants over the long term, it is important to have variant-based vaccines. Other vaccine makers like Moderna (MRNA - Free Report) and J&J (JNJ - Free Report) are also developing updated variant-based vaccines and boosters in order to respond to this variant.

Like Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna also announced that the first participant in a phase II study on its Omicron-specific booster candidate has been dosed. Moderna also announced neutralizing antibody data against the Omicron variant, which showed that six months after the third 50 µg dose of Moderna was given, neutralizing titers against Omicron declined. However, the neutralization levels remained detectable in all participants. 

J&J is also pursuing a new vaccine against Omicron, which will be pushed to clinical development, rapidly, if needed.

Both Pfizer and BioNTech sport a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

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