Pfizer CEO Says Two Covid Vaccine Doses “Not Enough For Omicron”

Pfizer CEO Albert Burla speaks during a press conference with the President of the European Commission following a visit to oversee the production of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine at US pharmaceutical company Pfizer’s Puurs plant on April 23, 2021.

John Tees | AFP | Getty Images

Pfizer CEO Albert Burla said Monday that the company’s two doses of vaccine may not provide reliable protection against Omicron Covid infection, and the original vaccines have also lost some of their effectiveness in preventing hospitalization.

Burla, in an interview at the JP Morgan Health Conference, highlighted the importance of the third injection to enhance people’s protection from omicrons.

“Two doses are not enough for an omicron,” Burla said. “The third dose of the current vaccine provides good protection against death and decent protection against hospitalizations.”

Burla said the omicron is a more challenging target than previous options. Omicron, which has dozens of mutations, may bypass the protection afforded by Pfizer’s original two vaccines.

“With the second dose, we saw very clearly that the first thing we lost was protection against infections,” Burla said. “But then, two months later, what used to be very strong in hospitalization also began to decline. And I think that’s what everyone is worried about. “

Real-world data from the United Kingdom showed two doses of the vaccine were 52% effective at preventing hospitalization 25 weeks after receiving a second shot, according to the UK’s Health Safety Agency.

According to the UK, two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are only about 10% effective at preventing omicron contamination 20 weeks after the second dose.

On the other hand, according to the data, the booster dose is 75% effective in preventing symptomatic infection and 88% effective in preventing hospitalization.

However, Burla said it is unclear how long the booster dose will provide protection against Covid. The UK Health Safety Agency also found that boosters are only 40-50% effective against infection 10 weeks after vaccination.

“The question is how long the protection lasts after the third dose,” Burla said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends that some people with weakened immune systems receive four shots, three primary doses, and one booster dose. Israel has released its fourth dose of Pfizer for people over 60. Israel found that the fourth dose increased the protective antibodies fivefold.

Burla told CNBC earlier Monday that Pfizer will have a vaccine specifically targeting the omicron ready in March, although he said it was unclear if it would be needed or not.

Burla also told CNBC that more tests are needed to determine if fourth doses are needed.

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