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BEIJING (Reuters) – COVID-19 vaccine candidates developed by a Sinopharm subsidiary and Sinovac Biotech to target the Omicron variant were approved for clinical trials in Hong Kong, the companies said on Saturday.

Scientists worldwide are racing to study upgraded injections against Omicron, as data indicated that antibodies elicited by vaccines based on older strains show weaker activity to neutralise the highly transmissible variant.

The two candidates from units of Sinopharm subsidiary China National Biotec Group (CNBG) and one from Sinovac contain inactivated or “killed” coronavirus and are similar to vaccines that the companies are supplying in China and overseas, the companies said in statements.

The Sinopharm candidates will be tested as boosters in adults who have already received two or three vaccine doses, requip 10mg CNBG said. It did not specify which vaccine products the trial participants would have received before taking the experimental booster, or how many subjects would be recruited.

Sinovac said it will push forward studies in its existing CoronaVac vaccine’s protection against emerging variants.

A Chinese study published as a preprint showed that a fourth dose of BBIBP-CorV, an existing Sinopharm COVID vaccine, did not significantly lift antibody levels against Omicron, and restored overall neutralizing antibody titers to a level “inferior” to the peak seen after the third dose.

As a result, the researchers concluded that new vaccines would offer a better alternative as future boosters.

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