Pfizer CEO Hopes for Annual COVID-19 Vaccine Over More Frequent Boosters

Pfizer CEO Hopes for Annual COVID-19 Vaccine Over More Frequent Boosters
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla talks during a press conference at the factory of Pfizer in Puurs, Belgium, on April 23, 2021. (John Thys/Pool via Reuters)
Mimi Nguyen Ly

Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, said on Jan. 22 that he would prefer an annual COVID-19 vaccine over booster shots that are issued at more frequent intervals.

In an interview with Israel’s N12 News, he was asked whether he sees booster shots being administered every four to five months on a regular basis.

“This will not be a good scenario,” Bourla said, “What I’m hoping (is) that we will have a vaccine that you will have to do once a year.”

“Once a year—it is easier to convince people to do it, it is easier for people to remember.

“So from a public health perspective, it is an ideal situation. We are looking to see if we can create a vaccine that covers Omicron and doesn’t forget the other variants and that could be a solution,” he said.

He noted that Pfizer is looking to file approval for a vaccine targeted toward the Omicron variant and could be able to mass produce it as soon as March—repeating what he told CNBC earlier this month.
The EU’s drug regulator, European Medicines Agency, earlier this month warned about having frequent vaccine boosters, saying it may not prove to be a sustainable long term approach.
Israel’s Sheba Medical Center published a preliminary study on Jan. 17 that found a fourth shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine increases antibodies to even higher levels than the third shot, but still cannot protect people against contracting the Omicron variant. The study’s lead researcher, Prof. Gili Regev-Yochay, said she still supports Israel’s decision to provide people over 60 and at-risk groups a fourth shot.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Jan. 21 came out with three studies that support the use of an mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine amid the Omicron variant’s spread. Omicron currently accounts for over 99 percent of COVID-19 cases in the United States.
The first study is published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and analyzed hospitalizations and emergency room and urgent care center visits in 10 states, from August 2021 to January 2022. The findings suggest that a third dose (a first booster dose) of the mRNA-based Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines was at least 90 percent effective at preventing hospitalizations.
The second study, also published by the CDC, looked at case and death rates in 25 states from April through Christmas. The findings suggest that people who took booster shots had the highest protection against COVID-19 infection—both during the time the Delta variant was dominant and also when the Omicron variant was taking over.
A third study, led by CDC researchers, and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), examined people who who tested positive for COVID-19 Dec. 10, 2021, to Jan. 1 throughout 4,600 testing sites across the United States. The findings suggest that “receipt of three doses of mRNA vaccine, relative to being unvaccinated and to receipt of 2 doses, was associated with protection against both the Omicron and Delta variants,” the authors wrote.
The CDC also released data on Jan. 19 that suggested that natural immunity was better than the protection from COVID-19 vaccines against the Delta virus variant. Specifically, hospitalization records from California showed that people who had not received a COVID-19 vaccine but did have a prior COVID-19 infection were less likely to be hospitalized, compared to those who were vaccinated but had not yet had a prior COVID-19 infection.
Reuters contributed to this report.