30 Nov 2021, 12:13

Pfizer already working on Covid vaccine targeting Omicron: CEO

  NEW YORK, Nov 30, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - Pfizer has already started working on a
version of its Covid-19 vaccine specifically targeting the new Omicron
variant in case the current inoculation is not effective against the latest
strain, the US drugmaker's CEO Albert Bourla said Monday.

   Bourla told CNBC that his company on Friday began testing the current
vaccine against the Omicron variant, which was first reported in South Africa
and has reignited fears of a global wave of Covid-19 infections.

   "I don't think the result will be the vaccines don't protect," Bourla

   But the testing could show that existing shots "protect less," which would
mean "that we need to create a new vaccine," Bourla said.

   "Friday we made our first DNA template, which is the first possible
inflection of the development process of a new vaccine," he said.

   Johnson & Johnson also said Monday that it is "pursuing an Omicron-
specific variant vaccine and will progress it as needed."

   On Friday, Moderna, another leading Covid-19 vaccine maker, said it was
developing a booster shot against the new variant.

   Bourla likened the situation to the scenario earlier this year when Pfizer
and its German partner BioNTech developed a vaccine in 95 days when there
were concerns the previous formula would not work against Delta, though that
version ultimately was not used.

   The current vaccine is "very effective" against Delta, the executive said,
adding that the companies expect to be able to produce four billion vaccine
doses in 2022.

   On Monday, the World Health Organization warned the new Covid-19 Omicron
variant poses a "very high" risk globally.

   Bourla said he was also "very confident" that Pfizer's recently unveiled
antiviral pill would work as a treatment for infections caused by the
mutations, including Omicron.

   Among newly-infected, high risk patients treated within three days of the
onset of symptoms, Pfizer's pill has been shown to cut hospitalization or
death by nearly 90 percent.

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