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Annual COVID-19 jabs likely, says Pfizer head

Pfizer CEO predicts annual jabs will be needed to maintain a ‘very high level of protection’ against COVID-19 and emphasises the need to vaccinate children

Albert Bourla Pfizer

A year after the UK became the first country to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer’s chief executive has been reflecting on a very busy 12 months for the company.

Dr Albert Bourla (pictured) said that vaccines had helped save millions of lives during the pandemic, and that the “fundamental structure of our society would be threatened” without them.

Pfizer expects to have supplied three billion doses of its messenger ribonucleic-acid (mRNA) vaccine by the end of this year and plans to supply another four billion doses next year.

Dr Bourla said that 2021 had seen a global race to get vaccines developed and approved and that countries would have “as many doses as they need” in 2022.

He believes that people will need to have annual vaccinations against COVID-19 in order to maintain the “very high level of protection” needed.

Pfizer is already working on an updated jab that could be ready within 100 days in light of the Omicron variant. Bourla said the company had taken the same action in response to the Beta and Delta variants of concern but that the tweaked vaccines had not been needed.

Perhaps inevitably, considering that Pfizer expects to ring up $35bn of sales for its COVID-19 vaccine this year alone, Bourla defended the right of the company to make a profit from its investment.

“The bottom line is millions of lives were saved,” he said. “We have saved the global economy trillions of dollars. It is a strong incentive for innovation for the next pandemic. But people will see that if they step up to the game, to bring something that saves lives and saves money, there is also a financial reward.”

He added that the vaccine was sold to low-income countries at no profit and offered some hope for countries where vaccination rates are very low. Within a month or so, Pfizer will roll out a new formulation of the vaccine that can be stored for three months in a fridge, avoiding the need for freezers. Bourla said this would make a “huge difference” for sub-Saharan African countries in particular where poor health infrastructure has made vaccination difficult.

Bourla also pointed to high effectiveness of its antiviral drug Paxlovid, which cut hospital admissions and deaths by nearly 90% in trials.

A focus for Pfizer is the vaccination of children. The US Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer jab for children aged 5 to 11 in November and Pfizer is currently running a trial in the under-fives age group.

“COVID-19 in schools is thriving; this is disturbing… and there are kids that will have severe symptoms, so there is no doubt in my mind that the benefits, completely, are in favour of doing it,” said Bourla.

He had a message for the vaccine hesitant. “For those that are just afraid, the only emotion of human beings stronger than fear is love… the decision to get another vaccine is not going to influence only your health, it is going to affect the health of others and particularly the health of the people you love the most. So, take the courage to overcome your fears and do the right thing.”

Article by
Hugh Gosling

3rd December 2021

From: Healthcare

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