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Pfizer CEO: Initial Two-Dose Vaccine ‘Not Enough For Omicron’
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 9: Albert Bourla attends The New York Times DealBook Online Summit on November 9, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Ryan Muir/Getty Images via The New York Times)
Ryan Muir/Getty Images via The New York Times

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said that two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are “not enough” protection against the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.

Bourla’s comments on his vaccine’s effectiveness came Monday during the 40th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, which he addressed in an interview-style format. The pharmaceutical CEO said a booster shot offers better protection but warned that that protection may wane, highlighting the need for a new version of the vaccine that protects against the Omicron variant.

“Omicron is a way more challenging target, so the two doses are not enough for Omicron,” Bourla said. “The third dose of the current vaccine is providing good protection against death and decent protection against hospitalization. So, most of the people that they are ending up in hospital [with Omicron] aren’t vaccinated. They are not people that they had the vaccine.”

“I think the question mark … is how long that protection lasts with the third dose. We have seen with a second dose very clearly that the first thing that we lost was the protection against infections, which, anyways, is not as good, as robust against infection [than] the third dose for Omicron,” Bourla continued.

“But then, two months later, what used to be very strong in hospitalization also went down. I think this is what everybody’s worried about,” he said. “This is why a lot of authorities here in the U.S., they recommend the fourth dose for those who are immunocompromised.”

Bourla has pushed for the approval of a fourth dose, also known as a second booster shot, of the vaccine in the U.S. Pfizer is also developing a vaccine that Bourla says would protect against the Omicron strain, as well as various other known strains of COVID-19. That vaccine should be finished in March, the CEO said.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel has joined Bourla in pushing for the approval of a fourth shot in less than two years since the COVID-19 vaccines have been available. Bancel cited the diminishing effectiveness of the vaccines over time in an interview last week.

“I will be surprised when we get that data in the coming weeks that it’s holding nicely over time — I would expect that it’s not going to hold great,” Bancel said, referring to the protection against COVID-19 awarded by the vaccine. “I still believe we’re going to need boosters in the fall of ’22 and forward.”

As the pharmaceutical industry questions the efficacy of the first dose of its vaccines against Omicron, the Biden administration is seeking to mandate vaccines or COVID-19 testing for millions of Americans. The Supreme Court has gotten involved in several legal challenges against the Biden administration over a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers and an order that would require large employers to vaccinate or test weekly their employees.

Related: Judge Orders FDA To Expedite Release Of Pfizer Data On COVID-19 Vaccine: ‘Paramount Public Importance’

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