The Story Behind Pfizer COVID Vaccine’s New Name

Comirnaty is now the official brand name for the Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine. Pronounced Koe-mir’-na-tee, the mRNA drug was given formal approval by the Food and Drug Administration on Monday.

According to NPR, the pharmaceutical companies wanted to bestow a meaningful moniker to their star vaccine and began researching potential names back in April 2020. They employed Brand Institute, a naming agency, to help pursue the process.

Comirnaty represents a layering of the terms COVID-19, mRNA, community, and immunity, according to a news release from Pfizer and BioNTech. Other names in the running were Covuity, RnaxCovi, Kovimerna and RNXtract, says NPR. Those names were filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this summer by BioNTech, according to FiercePharma.

“Identifying those word parts and plugging into the community concept really executed nicely at the end of the day,” said Scott Piergrossi, president of operations and communications at Brand Institute. The generic name for Comirnaty is tozinameran, Piergrossi explained. That name was derived from the prefix required by the World Health Organization, while the second half is the required suffix for new mRNA vaccines.

However, the new name for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has already garnered its share of critics, despite being a life-saving drug. “Let’s not lose sight of the fact that ‘Comirnaty’ is a an objectively hilarious brand name,” Ariel Edwards-Levy tweeted. And Ben Wakana, deputy director of strategic communications and engagement and a member of the White House’s COVID-19 Response Team, quipped: “The correct pronunciation of Comirnaty is: ‘keepz-you-out-of-the-hospital-saves UR-life-protects-your community.’”

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is still waiting full FDA approval, but according to the European Medicines Agency, the drug will be called Spikevax when its officially cleared. Johnson & Johnson has filed for numerous brand names for its vaccine including Rezymnav, Rezymden, Evcoyan, and Jcovav.

“Ultimately the formula for success in naming is a strong distinctive name with meaning that over time will hopefully come to stand for or symbolize the hope and innovation that the underlying product itself is for,” Piergrossi said, according to FiercePharma.

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