Pfizer Hopes for Omicron-Specific Vaccine by March
Pfizer is eying March as a potential roll-out date for a hybrid COVID-19 vaccine that would cover both the original Wuhan strain and the highly vaccine-resistant Omicron strain.
Speaking at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, CEO Albert Bourla, said a bilvalent vaccine — one that covers two COVID-19 strains — could be one way to get a handle on the highly contagious mutated virus.
“Omicron is a way more challenging target,” than the original strain, Bourla said. And while double vaccination plus a booster currently provides good protection against hospitalization and death, “the question mark is how long that protection will last with the third dose.”
It’s becoming clear that an Omicron-specific vaccine may be necessary, Bourla said.
“I think the best vaccine is one that covers the other [strains] and also works against Omicron. We are working on a vaccine like that …. a hybrid.”
In addition to performing the genetic sequencing necessary for the new mRNA vaccine, Bourla said Pfizer is also investigating higher vaccine doses and different vaccination schedules.
“I think we will be ready to go file and launch if [the studies] are successful and if we have the demand. Part of our manufacturing capacity is currently moving to make the newest version of the vaccine so that we will be able to have quantities to launch if it's needed in March.”
Bourla also said the company will produce 3.6 billion tablets of its COVID-19 antiviral, Paxlovid, this year. Each course of treatment comprises 15 tablets: ten 300 mg tablets of nirmatrelvir and three 100 mg tablets of ritonavir.
By the end of the first quarter, Bourla said, Pfizer should have made 6-7 million courses of treatment, with a 30 million treatment goal by mid-year. — Michele G. Sullivan