Pfizer wants you to call its COVID vaccine Comirnaty. How the name came about

August 23, 2021, 4:12 PM UTC

Fresh off its full approval by the FDA, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine (also referred to as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine) would now like to be known as Comirnaty.  

It’s a request with which few people are likely to comply.

The brand name for the Pfizer vaccine is a mouthful, but it’s not new. In fact, it has been around since last December. (There’s even a name for the generic version of the drug, whenever that hits the market: tozinameran.) But where did it come from?

Comirnaty (pronounced “koe-mir-na-tee”) is actually a car wreck of several words, all of which are centered around the pandemic and the breakthrough technology that enabled scientists to develop a vaccine so fast.

“Comirnaty…represents a combination of the terms COVID-19, mRNA, community, and immunity, to highlight the first authorization of a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine, as well as the joint global efforts that made this achievement possible,” said Pfizer in announcing EU authorization last year.

The name, which you might guess if you say it out loud, is meant to evoke community (even if it sounds like it’s being said by the woman in the “Ermahgerd” meme).

To break it down more, “Co” comes from COVID-19. “Mirna” is an adulterated version of mRNA. And “-ty” blends in the community and immunity themes.

As for that generic name, which is even more of a mouthful, “tozina-“ is a prefix required by the World Health Organization, while “meran” is a required suffix for mRNA vaccines.

If you’re not a fan of Comirnaty, it could have been…well, better or worse. You decide. Among the reported rejected names Pfizer and BioNTech considered were Covuity, RnaxCovi, Kovimerna, and RNXtract.

As for Moderna’s COVID vaccine? It doesn’t have a name in the U.S. yet, but the odds-on favorite is Spikevax. The European Medicines Agency approved that name last month. When and if the FDA gives Moderna’s treatment full approval, it will rule on the name as well.

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