This is primarily due to the rise of the so-called Omicron variant. While the original COVID-19 virus and previous variants, such as the Delta variant, have been successfully (for the most part) controlled by available vaccines, the Omicron variant is proving to be a tough nut to crack.
Omicron, it appears, is more likely to cause breakthrough infections or infections of those who are vaccinated. While vaccinated individuals typically display only minor systems, they can still spread the Omicron variant much easier than other variants. These mild symptoms are one of the reasons Omicron has spread so rapidly – infected individuals do not realize they are carrying the virus.
An effective countermeasure to the Omicron variant has been needed since it appeared on the scene a few months ago. Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) is again taking the lead in combating this new threat. The company recently announced that they would be starting clinical trials of a reformulated vaccine specifically designed to counteract the Omicron variant.
Kathrin Jansen, Pfizer’s vaccine research chief, commented:
While results are not expected for some time, there are a few issues, even if those results come back positive. First is the belief by some experts that many countries have already reached their Omicron peak and infections should start to come down. If this is true, and Omicron essentially burns itself out on its own, then Pfizer’s efforts in developing a new vaccine would have been in vain.
Another obstacle to a new vaccine becoming widespread is the same obstacle faced by the original vaccines: hesitancy by large swaths of the population to get vaccinated. Between misinformation being spread by anti-vaxxers and many vaccinated people still getting infected, it has been difficult enough for health officials to convince people to get their shots; convincing these same people to get yet another shot will be a tall task.
Whether or not the Omicron vaccine proves effective remains to be seen. If it is, look for Pfizer to roll it out as rapidly as possible to anyone willing to take it.
Pfizer last traded at $52.84, down -6.73% YTD.