Pfizer CEO says two doses of Covid vaccine ‘not enough for omicron’

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Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla speaks during a news conference after touring the production of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at the U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer’s facility in Puurs, Belgium, on April 23, 2021.

John Tees | Swimming pool | Reuters

Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said Monday that the company’s two-dose vaccine may not provide strong protection against infection with the omicron Covid variant and that the original vaccine has lost some protection The efficacy of hospitalization.

In an interview at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference, Bourla emphasized the importance of a third shot to strengthen people’s protections against omicron.

“These two doses are not enough for omicron,” Bourla said. “The current third dose of the vaccine is very good at preventing deaths, and it’s also very good at preventing hospitalisations.”

Bourla said omicron is a harder target than previous variants. Omicron, with dozens of mutations, can evade some of the protection provided by Pfizer’s original two shots.

“We’ve seen very clearly that the first thing we lose with the second dose is protection from infection,” Bourla said. “But after two months, the intensity of past hospitalizations has also dropped. I think that’s what everyone is worried about.”

Real data from the UK found that two doses of the vaccine were 52% effective at preventing hospitalisation 25 weeks after the second dose, according to the UK Health Security Agency.

According to UK data, a two-dose vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna is only about 10 percent effective at preventing omicron infection 20 weeks after the second dose.

On the other hand, booster doses are up to 75% effective in preventing symptomatic infections and 88% effective in preventing hospitalizations, according to the data.

However, Bourla said it was unclear how long the booster dose would provide protection against the new coronavirus. The UK Health Safety Agency also found that the booster was only 40 to 50 percent effective against infections 10 weeks after the injection.

“The question mark, how long will the protection from the third dose last,” Bourla said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that some people with compromised immune systems receive four shots, three main doses, and one booster shot. Israel has launched a fourth dose of Pfizer for people over 60. Israel found a fourth dose boosted protective antibodies fivefold.

Bourla told CNBC earlier Monday that Pfizer would have a vaccine specifically for omicron ready in March, but said it wasn’t clear if it was needed.

Bourla also told CNBC that more testing is needed to determine if a fourth dose is needed.


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