Digest Covid-19: BioNTech-Pfizer starts trial of vaccine specific to Omicron | Health

US drug giant Pfizer and German partner BioNTech on Tuesday announced a study comparing its original vaccine with a version modified to recognize the highly contagious Omicron strain.

Although Omicron has so far proven to be the variant most likely to cause infection in vaccinated people, it is unclear whether a modification of the vaccine is really necessary.

The original vaccines still show good protection against serious illness and death. Studies also show that a normal booster drastically reduces the chances of avoiding even a milder infection.

“We recognize the need to be prepared in case this protection wanes over time and to potentially help address Omicron and new variants in the future,” said Kathrin Jansen, head of vaccine research at Pfizer. , in a press release.

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“We recognize the need to be prepared in case this protection wanes over time and to potentially help address Omicron and new variants in the future,” she said.

Ugur Sahin, CEO of biotech company BioNTech, said the original vaccine’s protection appeared to decline faster against Omicron.

“The study is part of our scientific approach to developing a variant-based vaccine that provides protection against Omicron similar to what we have seen with previous variants, but at the same time lasts longer,” Sahin said.

The trial will involve 1,420 people aged 18 to 55 in the United States and South Africa, with the first participant receiving a dose in North Carolina.

Here’s the latest coronavirus news from around the world:


More than 200 cases of the virus have been discovered in a public housing estate in Hong Kong, prompting authorities to place the area under a partial lockdown and implement new restrictions. The block where the cluster was discovered was already under lockdown, which was extended from five to seven days.

Leader Carrie Lam said a second residential block in the Kwai Chung residential complex would be closed for five days. A “zero tolerance” approach similar to mainland China has been adopted by authorities.

A government panel in Japan has approved extending Covid restrictions to 18 additional regions, such as the western prefectures of Osaka and Kyoto. The decision was made due to an increase in cases and hospitalizations, driven by the Omicron variant. Under the new rules, which will last until February 20, regional governors will have the power to ask restaurants to shorten working hours and stop serving alcohol.

READ ALSO | Why are doctors still scrambling for Covid-19 drugs?

South Korea’s daily Covid count crossed 8,000 for the first time on Tuesday, since the pandemic began. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 8,571 new cases, in a surge caused by the Omicron variant.

Seoul had imposed stricter restrictions in December, after which the number of cases fell to 4,000 a day. The numbers have risen again, with authorities fearing a further increase during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.


Two years after its first case of Covid-19 was detected, Australia has seen a further rise in virus deaths. Authorities have refrained from entering a new lockdown, despite an increase in cases. However, hospitalizations have stabilized across the country. Most of the deaths have been in New South Wales and neighboring Victoria, home to the cities of Sydney and Melbourne.

There has been an outbreak of Covid aboard an Australian Navy ship en route to Tonga laden with aid, with 23 crew members testing positive. The ship was due to arrive in Tonga on Wednesday with emergency supplies following the volcanic eruption and tsunami.


A New York judge overturned the mask mandate for the state, a week before it expired. The judge found that the state legislature had limited any governor’s ability to issue such executive orders under a declared state of emergency.

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court blocked President Joe Biden’s vaccination or testing mandate for big business.


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke lockdown rules by throwing a birthday party with 30 people in attendance, broadcaster ITV has reported. The rally is believed to have taken place in June 2020, during Britain’s first Covid lockdown. London Police later confirmed they had launched investigations into alleged parties at Johnson’s offices and residence in Downing Street.

Germany reported 126,955 more coronavirus cases and 214 deaths on Tuesday, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute.

READ ALSO | Health officials raise hopes Omicron surge will boost global immunity

The state of Bavaria has agreed to lift the ban on spectators at major sporting events. The move means Bayern Munich and other professional football clubs will be able to open their doors to crowds once again.

Up to a maximum of 10,000 fans will be allowed from Thursday, with 25% of seats to be made available. Some other German states have already allowed up to 15,000 spectators.

Bavaria stopped fans from attending games in early December as a fourth wave of the pandemic gathered pace.

Middle East

In Israel, a group of experts has advised the government to start offering a fourth dose of the vaccine to anyone over the age of 18.

The panel cited research showing that a fourth shot helps prevent Covid-19 infection and serious illness.

The country is already offering a second booster to everyone over 60, as well as high-risk people amid a wave of infections fueled by Omicron.

Elna M. Lemons