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Pfizer and BioNTech begin testing an omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine

Illustration picture shows the company logo on the Pfizer production plant in Puurs, Wednesday 23 December 2020. The Covid-19 vaccin of Pfizer-BioNTech is produced in Puurs. Earlier this week, the EMA European Medicines Agency and the European Commission have approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccin for the European Union market. BELGA PHOTO JONAS ROOSENS (Photo by JONAS ROOSENS/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)
With its new COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer and BioNTech are hoping to get ahead of worsening effects of omicron as well as any new variants.

Pfizer and BioNTech have begun a clinical trial to evaluate a new, omicron-specific vaccine for COVID-19, the pharmaceutical companies announced Tuesday.Though people who are vaccinated and boosted appear to be better protected against severe disease and hospitalization from omicron, the highly contagious variant has still led to breakthrough cases and a surge in overall infections across the world."While current research and real-world data show that boosters continue to provide a high level of protection against severe disease and hospitalization with Omicron, we recognize the need to be prepared in the event this protection wanes over time and to potentially help address Omicron and new variants in the future," Kathrin U. Jansen, Pfizer's senior vice president and head of vaccine research and development, said in a statement.The study will include as many as 1,420 participants divided into three groups.One group includes people who have already received two doses of the current Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and will also receive the omicron vaccine. Another includes those with three doses of the current Pfizer vaccine who will also get the omicron vaccine. The third group includes unvaccinated people who will receive three shots of the omicron vaccine.The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the current Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in people ages 5 and older. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for adults.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.