Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said on Monday that a vaccine that targets the Omicron variant of COVID-19 will be ready in March, and the company has already begun manufacturing the doses.
“This vaccine will be ready in March. We [are] already starting manufacturing some of these quantities at risk,” he told CNBC.
Bourla said the vaccine will also target the other variants that are circulating. He said it is still not clear whether or not an Omicron vaccine is needed or how it would be used, but Pfizer will have some doses ready since some countries want it ready as soon as possible.
“The hope is that we will achieve something that will have way, way better protection particularly against infections, because the protection against the hospitalizations and the severe disease — it is reasonable right now, with the current vaccines as long as you are having let’s say the third dose,” Bourla said.
A recent study form the UK Health Security Agency found that Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines are only about 10% effective at preventing symptomatic infection from Omicron 20 weeks after the second dose. However, the original two doses still provide good protection against severe illness, the study found.
Booster shots are up to 75% effective at preventing symptomatic infection, according to the study.
Bourla said in November that three doses of the Pfizer vaccine would remain effective even against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, but added that a new vaccine specifically made to combat the new strain could be ready in 100 days.
Meanwhile, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC on Monday the company is working on a booster for this fall that targets Omicron and it will enter clinical trials soon. Bancel said demand is high from governments as they prepare regular vaccination against the virus.