Pfizer announces date Omicron-specific vaccine will be available: ‘Need to stay ahead’


Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s Chief Executive, told CNBC that the pharmaceutical giant is already manufacturing doses due to significant interest from governments around the world. This comes as countries are still battling high COVID-19 infection rates. And this includes large numbers of “breakthrough” Omicron cases in vaccinated populations.

Mr Bourla said: “This vaccine will be ready in March.

“I don’t know if we will need it. I don’t know if and how it will be used.”

He added that the current programme of receiving two shots, and then a booster, has provided “reasonable” protection against severe cases of Omicron.

But Pfizer’s new vaccine, which could focus solely on the Omicron variant, would also protect against breakthrough infections of the highly contagious strain.

Moderna has also said that it is developing a booster vaccine that could target Omicron and other emerging strains that may come out later on in 2022.

Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s boss, told CNBC on Monday: “We are discussing with public health leaders around the world to decide what we think is the best strategy for a potential booster for the fall of 2022.

“We need to be careful to try to stay ahead of a virus and not behind the virus.”

Pfizer has reportedly begun testing the current vaccine that is tailored to target the Omicron variant.

Mr Bourla seems confident that the vaccines will deliver promising results.

He said: “I don’t think the result will be the vaccines don’t protect.”

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The company already submitted its approval for the use of its experimental pill, Paxlovid, for US authorisation, with a launch likely to come within weeks.

And the European Medicines Agency, Europe’s drug regulator, has said that it could also decide within weeks whether to approve Pfizer’s application for conditional marketing authorisation for Paxlovid.

But the UK has already approved the Pfizer pill.

It is a new combination treatment for people with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of developing severe illness.

But it is too early to know whether Omicron has any impact on Paxlovid’s effectiveness.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
has said it is proactively working with Pfizer to establish this.

Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, Chair of the Commission on Human Medicines, said: ”It is clear Paxlovid is another safe and effective treatment to help us in our fight against COVID-19.

“As it is deployed, we will monitor its effectiveness and safety in the real world, including any drug interactions, as we do with all medicines.”

According to the Government’s coronavirus dashboard, there have been 1,201,563 positive COVID-19 cases over the last seven days.


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