The CEO of the first company to win approval for a COVID-19 vaccine said Monday that he hopes the virus will be “controlled” by annual vaccinations and pills to treat illness when people get sick.
Albert Bourla, head of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, said on CNBC that annual COVID shots could become the norm, just like yearly flu shots.
“We will have perfectly normal lives, with just injection maybe once a year. And the pill in case we are sick will make it more flu like rather than life-threatening disease,” he said. But Bourla added: “Two doses of the vaccine offers very limited protection, if any.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized Pfizer’s COVID treatment pill late last year, but so far it is not widely available.
Bourla’s comments mirror those of Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna, which also produces a vaccine. Bancel also told CNBC on Monday that he sees additional booster shots as necessary to battle the virus. He also said his company is “working very actively on an Omicron-specific vaccine as a booster” and “discussing with public health leaders around the world to decide what we think is the best strategy for a potential booster for fall of 2022.”
“We believe it will contain omicron mRNAs,” he said, referring to the genetic technology used in Moderna’s vaccine. “But do we need to have any other components? That has to be discussed, because we need to be careful to stay ahead of the virus.”
The risk of winding up in the intensive care unit or dying from the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is 83% less compared to the Delta strain, according to a recent study. In addition, the risk of hospitalization or death for an Omicron infection is 65% less than Delta, the Canadian study found.
Despite the seemingly good news, the researchers still had a warning: “While severity is likely to be reduced, the absolute number of hospitalizations and impact on the healthcare system may nevertheless be significant due to the increased transmissibility of Omicron.”
“Nevertheless, Omicron appears to demonstrate lower disease severity for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. While severity is likely to be reduced, the absolute number of hospitalizations and impact on the healthcare system is likely to be significant due to the large number of Omicron infections,” the study says.
The Canadian study mirrors findings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The rate of hospitalizations of Americans with COVID-19 has dropped 50% amid the new Omicron variant compared to record highs seen a year ago, new CDC data shows.
Even though the rate of cases has more than tripled since Omicron emerged around Thanksgiving — earlier this week there were more than 1 million new cases diagnosed on a single day — just 3% of people with the virus are being admitted to hospitals, data from the CDC shows.
That rate is less than half the 6.5% of cases that needed hospitalization exactly a year ago, when the average daily case count was about 250,000, the data shows. Deaths from the virus are less than a third of what was recorded last January at about 1,200 per day, far fewer than the record high of 3,400 a year ago, CDC data shows.
The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 now accounts for nearly every new case of the virus blanketing the U.S., according to the CDC.
The new strain represented 95.4% of sequenced COVID-19 cases during the week ending on New Year’s Day, while the once-dominant Delta variant made up just only 4.6% of sequenced cases, the CDC said.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent, and ran the Drudge Report from 2010 to 2015. Send tips to email@example.com.