Pfizer starts making vaccine that targets both omicron and the original COVID virus

Pfizer Inc. is developing a hybrid vaccine that combines its original shot with a formulation that shields against the highly transmissible omicron variant, the drug giant’s top executive has said.

While research continues, Pfizer will evaluate the new, hybrid formulation against an omicron-specific shot, and determine which is best suited to move forward by March, Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference on Monday.

Pfizer will be ready in March to approach U.S. regulators for clearance of the modified vaccine and bring it to market, and it has already begun production, Bourla said.

Pfizer had said at the end of November — shortly after the new strain was first detected in South Africa — that it was working on a standalone omicron-specific vaccine.

The New York-based drug giant and German partner BioNTech SE are also testing higher-dose versions of their vaccine and evaluating different dosing schedules, Bourla said. He said he continues to provide additional resources to the company’s vaccine unit and is also looking to deploy its messenger RNA technology in other spaces.

The use of mRNA is “clearly … a very powerful technology and we’re just scratching the surface of it,” Bourla said.

On Monday, Pfizer announced a trio of deals to build out its budding franchise of mRNA candidates to target COVID-19, rare diseases and cancer.

Pfizer is also making inroads in scaling out access to its oral COVID-19 treatment, Paxlovid. “In a couple of weeks, we will have it everywhere,” Bourla said of U.S. access to the pill.

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