The CEO of Pfizer Inc has said that a fourth dose of coronavirus vaccine might be needed for better protection against the omicron variant, as initial studies have shown that it could undermine antibody protection with two doses.
Albert Bourla said the company was waiting to see real-world data to determine whether additional doses would be required specifically for omicron.
“When we see real-world data, [we] will determine if the omicron is well covered by the third dose and for how long. And the second point, I think we will need a fourth dose,” Mr Bourla said on CNBC’s Squawk Box, adding that the data could be expected in the next two weeks.
The pressure for booster jabs has increased on governments around the world with the discovery of the new variant.
Earlier on Wednesday, Pfizer released findings from an initial lab study that showed that two vaccine doses had a lower ability to fight omicron compared to other variants, while a third jab improved protection significantly. The findings were in line with the results of a study carried out in South Africa by doctors earlier this week.
However, since it was an early lab study, it was based on a lab-created copy of the variant. Researchers say more needs to be understood about the omicron variant.
Mr Bourla said the third dose should be rolled out as soon as possible and added that it could provide the needed protection against another wave of infections.
“A third dose will give very good protection I believe,” Mr Bourla said, adding that treatments such as Pfizer’s oral antiviral pill Paxlovid will help prevent hospitalisations and control Covid during winter.
He had said even earlier that a fourth shot may be needed, but estimated that it would be required only around a year after the third dose. But now, he said that it could be needed sooner.
“With omicron, we need to wait and see because we have very little information. We may need it faster,” he said.
Mr Bourla added that the company was evaluating whether any adjustments were needed to the current vaccine to provide better protection against the omicron variant or other future variants, or whether an entirely different vaccine would be needed to target it.
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