Covid-19: Medsafe assesses Omicron-specific vaccine request

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The Medsafe website shows that a request for Pfizer's Omicron BA.1 vaccine has been made.  (File photo)

Sungmi Kim / Stuff

The Medsafe website shows that a request for Pfizer’s Omicron BA.1 vaccine has been made. (File photo)

A request for a Covid-19 vaccine specific to Omicron is being examined by the drug safety authority.

Medsafe’s website, revised Monday, showed a new drug request had been made for the Pfizer/BioNTech Omicron BA.1 vaccine for people aged 12 and older.

Medsafe was evaluating the vaccine “on a priority basis”, he confirmed on Monday. The request was received last Thursday and is “on hold, pending payment of the invoice by the requester”.

Earlier in September, Te Whatu Ora national immunization program manager Astrid Koornneef said Medsafe was working with Pfizer on plans to submit data to New Zealand on Covid-19 vaccine variants, but that this was to “happen over the next few months”.

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A request appears to have been filed 10 days later.

The UK has approved a dual Covid vaccine developed by Moderna that targets both the original Covid virus as well as the Omicron variant. .

An application for the original Comirnaty/Omicron BA.4/5 vaccine had not yet been received, but was expected “when the data becomes available”, Medsafe said.

Pfizer has not yet confirmed when it will submit an application for the Comirnaty Original/Omicron BA.4/5 vaccine, it said. Things.

BA.5 remains the dominant strain in Aotearoa, accounting for more than 86% of all community cases sequenced over the past week, according to a September 8 report.

On August 15, the UK became the first country to approve a new “bivalent” vaccine booster, based on the Omicron BA.1 line and the original Sars-CoV-2 sequence. The United States took a similar step on August 31.

University of Auckland associate professor and vaccinologist Dr Helen Petousis-Harris said these bivalent vaccines were authorized on the basis of data measuring the type of immune response generated by a vaccine, as there was little or no real data on their effectiveness.

Associate Professor Helen Petousis-Harris says current Covid-19 vaccines, based on the ancestral Sars-CoV-2, still offer very good protection against severe disease and death.  (File photo)

Chris McKeen / Stuff

Associate Professor Helen Petousis-Harris says current Covid-19 vaccines, based on the ancestral Sars-CoV-2, still offer very good protection against severe disease and death. (File photo)

At this point, not everyone was convinced that Omicron-specific vaccines “have a lot of additional benefits over what we already have,” she said.

Current Covid-19 vaccines, based on the ancestral strain, were “already doing very well what we set out to do”: protect against serious illness and death, she said.

Variant vaccines seemed to provide “diminishing returns” by comparison.

Petousis-Harris said she would “not be in a rush” to get an Omicron-specific vaccine.

Instead, she said it was more important to focus booster efforts on those who needed to maintain useful antibodies – those who were frail, very old or immunocompromised.

In comments to the Science Media Center, Professor Peter McIntyre of the University of Otago, medical adviser to the Immunization Advisory Centre, said the highest priority for New Zealand remained improving booster coverage in all adults.

“The highest possible coverage of the first and second boosters far outweighs any benefit of ‘variant-specific’ vaccines.”

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