Pfizer and BioNTech expect to have an omicron-specific booster ready by March 2022.
There is good news in the battle against the fast-spreading SARS-CoV-2 variant omicron. Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine neutralized the variant after three doses, an initial laboratory study found, the pharma makers said in a news release.
Sera obtained from the vaccine one month after receiving the booster vaccination “neutralized the omicron variant to levels that are comparable to those observed for the wild-type SARS-CoV-2 spike protein after two doses,” Pfizer and BioNTech said.
A more robust protection may be achieved by a third dose of the vaccine, they said, as data from additional studies of the companies indicate that a booster with the current COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech increases the antibody titers by 25-fold. A third dose also strongly increases CD8+ T cell levels against multiple spike protein epitopes.
But sera from individuals who received two doses of the current COVID-19 vaccine exhibited, on average, more than a 25-fold reduction in neutralization titers against the omicron variant compared with wild-type, indicating that two doses “may not be sufficient to protect against infection with the Omicron variant,” the companies said.
“Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the omicron strain, it’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine,” Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman and CEO, said in statement. “Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
After starting its development on November 25, Pfizer and BioNTech’s omicron-based vaccine can be produced and ready for deliveries within 100 days, pending regulatory approval.
Pfizer and BioNTech have tested other variant-specific vaccines as well, which have produced “very strong neutralization titers and a tolerable safety profile,” the companies said.
“Based on this experience, the companies have high confidence that, if needed, they can deliver an omicron-based vaccine in March 2022,” they said.