A health worker seen holding a vial containing the Cominarty vaccine in Porto, Portugal April 17 2021
Teresa Nunes/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • Pfizer and BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine got full FDA approval on Monday.
  • Its name, Comirnaty, is a mash-up of community, immunity, mRNA, and Covid-19.
  • The branding company behind the name explained exactly how it came up with it.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Pfizer and BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine got full Food and Drug Administration approval on Monday - and the agency also approved the vaccine's official name, Comirnaty, pronounced koe-mir-na-tee.

Comirnaty is a carefully chosen mashup of Covid-19, mRNA, community, and immunity, according to the company that came up with the name.

Scott Piergrossi, president of operations and communications at the Brand Institute, a drug-naming company, said Comirnaty was "coined from Covid-19 immunity," reports Fierce Pharma, with the middle section representing mRNA, which is the technology behind the vaccine.

"So that's the Co- prefix, followed by the mRNA in the middle, and ending with the -ty suffix, which nods to both community and immunity," he said.

As a whole, "the name is meant to evoke the word community," he said.

Pfizer and BioNTech said when the name was first adopted by the European Medicines Agency in December 2020 that it was chosen to highlight the "first authorisation of an mRNA vaccine as well as the joint global efforts that made that achievement possible."

It's not easy getting a name rubber-stamped by the FDA, which details its requirements in a 42-page document.

Drug names should be memorable, not easily confused with other medicines, and easily spelled. They're allowed to refer to the drug's technology, such as mRNA, but not to any active ingredients.

Other names that Pfizer and BioNTech filed to the US Patent and Trademark Office included Covuity, RnaxCovi, Kovimerna, and RNXtract.

Piergrossi told Fierce Pharm that "ultimately the formula for success in naming is a strong distinctive name with meaning that over time will hopefully [come to] stand for or symbolise the hope and innovation that the underlying product itself is for."

But not everyone is convinced Comirnaty does the trick.

Dr Nick Mark, a pulmonary and critical care physician in Seattle, said on Twitter Monday: "I feel like the brainstorm session that came up with the name 'Comirnaty' either ended too soon or went on way too long."

Ben Wakana, a member of the White House's Covid-19 Response Team, joked on Twitter Monday: "The correct pronunciation of Comirnaty is: "keepz-u-out-of-the-hospital-saves-UR-life-protects-your-community.


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