If omicron remains the dominant coronavirus strain, it's possible that omicron-specific versions of vaccines could enjoy greater future demand compared to rival vaccines that don't specifically target the variant. In this segment from "This Week in Healthcare," recorded on Jan. 31, Motley Fool contributors Brian Orelli and Keith Speights discuss how vaccine makers Moderna (MRNA 0.68%) and Pfizer (PFE -0.09%) are preparing for this possibility with their new clinical trials.
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Brian Orelli: Both Moderna and Pfizer and BioNTech launched clinical trials of their Omicron variant-specific vaccines. What do you think of the different clinical trial protocols? It seemed like Pfizer and BioNTech's study is quite a bit more robust. But do you think it really matters?
Keith Speights: Yes, you're right. The Pfizer-BioNTech study does appear to be more robust than Moderna's. What Pfizer and BioNTech are doing, they're enrolling up to 1,420 participants across three cohorts of this study. Cohort 1 will include participants who initially received two doses of the company's original COVID-19 vaccine plus either one or two doses of the Omicron-specific vaccine. Than Cohort 2 of the Pfizer study will include participants who initially received three doses of the original Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine plus either another dose of the original vaccine or a dose of the Omicron-specific vaccine. Then finally, Cohort 3 of the Pfizer study will include participants who have not received a COVID vaccine at all yet. They will receive three doses of this new Omicron-specific vaccine.
Now, by comparison, Moderna plans to enroll around 600 participants in two cohorts. That will be 300 participants roughly in each of these cohorts. The first cohort will have participants who receive two doses of mRNA-1273, that's Moderna's vaccine that's already on the market, plus one dose of the Omicron-specific vaccine the company is developing. Then the second cohort will have participants who receive two doses of mRNA-1273 plus a third booster dose of mRNA-1273, which is at a lower dosage level than the initial two doses, plus a dose of the Omicron specific vaccine.
I'm sure that's clear as mud, but basically, first of all, Pfizer is enrolling quite a bit more. Over twice as many participants in the study. It has three different cohorts that really I think are examining the effects of the Omicron-specific vaccine. Like I said, in a more robust level.
Brian Orelli: They have a placebo right?
Keith Speights: Yeah.
Brian Orelli: Moderna's doesn't have a placebo.
Keith Speights: Yeah, Moderna doesn't have a placebo I think whenever the results are available from these studies, I think everybody is going to put a lot more stock in what Pfizer says, but just because of the way its study is constructed. Now, does all of this matter. Maybe. I think it's too early to say. It certainly won't help and time or probably won't help in time. To address the current Omicron wave that we're having in the US.
Fortunately, it does seem to have peaked at this point. I don't think any of this is going to matter for addressing the current wave that we're seeing. But if Omicron remains the dominant coronavirus strain, it's possible that these Omicron-specific versions of these companies' vaccines could enjoy greater future demand compared to rival vaccines that don't specifically target Omicron, it could matter over the long run. We're just going to have to wait and see.