Pfizer's COVID-19 pill, Paxlovid
Pfizer's COVID-19 pill, PaxlovidPfizer/Handout via REUTERS

Pfizer executives said on Tuesday they are confident of strong demand for the company's COVID-19 antiviral treatment amid easing pandemic rules, AFP reported.

The US pharmaceutical giant, reporting surging first-quarter profits based on a big jump in revenues from its COVID-19 vaccine, said its Paxlovid treatment for the virus would be a valuable means for governments to limit the severity of outbreaks as they ease social distancing and masking rules.

Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said the company is seeing "very strong signs of increasing demand for Paxlovid as it remains one of the best tools we have."

Citing rising vaccine fatigue, Bourla said the company is also focused on a COVID-19 vaccine booster that provides immunity for a year.

"People are tired of the repeated booster, so it is extremely important to come to a vaccine that could be a yearly vaccine," Bourla told analysts on a conference call, according to AFP.

He added that while the company has made progress on this front, "it's not technically easy to achieve."

"There's a tremendous pressure across the world to get our lives back," Bourla said of the social and political impetus to ease pandemic rules. "As a result of these things it's very clear that we will have waves" of COVID-19 infections.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency authorization to Paxlovid in December, clearing the pill for patients 12 and up with mild to moderate COVID who are most likely to end up hospitalized or not survive.

In January, US President Joe Biden announced that the federal government is doubling the order for Paxlovid, which has been shown to reduce hospitalizations and severe illness significantly.

Israel’s Health Ministry also approved the Pfizer pill in December. Other countries that have approved Paxlovid include Canada and Bahrain.