A syringe is filled with a dose of Pfizer’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at an pop-up community vaccination center at the Gateway World Christian Center in Valley Stream, New York, United States on February 23, 2021.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said on Wednesday people may need a fourth injection of Covid-19 sooner than expected after preliminary research showed the new omicron variant may undermine the protective antibodies generated by the vaccine.
Pfizer and BioNTech on Wednesday morning released the results of a first laboratory study which showed that a third injection is effective in combating the omicron variant, while the first round of two-dose vaccinations dramatically decreased its ability to protect against the new strain. However, the two-dose series likely still offers protection against serious illnesses caused by omicron, the companies said.
Bourla noted that a preliminary study by the company was based on a synthetic lab-created copy of the variant and that more data is needed from testing against the real virus. These actual results will be more precise and are expected within the next two weeks, said the CEO of Pfizer.
“When we see real world data, we will determine if omicron is well covered by the third dose and for how long. And the second point, I think we will need a fourth dose,” Bourla said. at CNBC’s “Squawk Box”.
Bourla had previously predicted that a fourth injection would be needed 12 months after the third dose. “With omicron we have to wait and see because we have very little information. We may need it faster,” he said.
The CEO of Pfizer said the most important right now is to roll out the third doses for the winter. Public health officials worry about a spike in Covid infections as people congregate more indoors to escape the cold.
“A third dose will give very good protection, I think,” said Bourla. He also said that treatments such as Pfizer’s oral antiviral pill, Paxlovid, will help prevent hospitalizations and control Covid during the winter.
Pfizer submitted its request to the Food and Drug Administration last month for emergency authorization of the pill. Bourla told CNBC on Wednesday that Pfizer will have full clinical trial results within days, and he expects the pill to demonstrate an 89% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths, as it did in the data. intermediaries from last month.
The CEO of Pfizer said the company has already shipped pills to the United States and could start rolling out the product this month if the FDA approves it for emergency use. President Joe Biden said last month that the United States had purchased 10 million courses that are expected to begin delivery by the end of the year.
Bourla said he was confident the Pfizer pill would remain effective against omicron because it targets a different part of the virus, an enzyme used for replication, which is not as susceptible to mutations. The vaccines target the spike protein that the virus uses to invade human cells. The spike protein mutated several times during the pandemic.
Pfizer and BioNTech may develop a vaccine that specifically targets omicron by March 2022 if necessary, Bourla said. The CEO of Pfizer said he anticipates the emergence of new variants in the future, and the company is monitoring to see if vaccine adjustments are needed.