Pfizer CEO says two Covid vaccine doses aren’t ‘enough for omicron’

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  • “Two doses, they’re not enough for Omicron,” Pfizer CEO Albert Boerla said.
  • Borla said the two-dose vaccine does not provide strong protection against infection and its ability to prevent hospitalization has also declined.
  • Bourla said third shots are providing good protection against death, and “decent” protection against hospitalization.

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Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said on Monday that two doses of the company’s vaccine may not provide strong protection against infection from the Omicron Covid variant, and the original shots have lost some of their efficacy in preventing hospitalizations.

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Borla emphasized the importance of the third shot in promoting people’s defenses against Omicron in an interview at JPMorgan’s health conference.

“Two doses, they’re not enough for Omicron,” Bourla said. “The third dose of the current vaccine is providing fairly good protection against deaths, and good protection against hospitalization.”

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Borla said Omicron is a more difficult target than previous variants. Omicron, which has dozens of mutations, can evade some of the protection provided by Pfizer’s original two shots.

“We saw very clearly with the second dose that the first thing we lost was protection against infection,” Borla said. “But then two months later, what used to be very strong in hospitalizations also subsides. And I think that’s what everybody’s worried about.”

Real-world data from the United Kingdom has found that two vaccine doses are 52% effective at preventing hospitalization 25 weeks after receiving a second shot, according to data from the UK’s Health Protection Agency.

CNBC Health & Science

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According to UK data, two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine are only 10% effective in preventing infection with Omicron 20 weeks after the second dose.

A booster dose, on the other hand, is up to 75% effective in preventing symptomatic infection and 88% effective in preventing hospitalization, according to statistics.

However, Borla said that it is not clear how long the booster dose will provide protection against COVID. The UK Health Protection Agency also found that boosters are only 40% to 50% effective against infection 10 weeks after receiving the shot.

“The question mark, is how long the protection lasts with the third dose,” Bourla said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that some people with compromised immune systems get four shots, three primary doses and a booster. Israel has introduced a fourth Pfizer dose for people over the age of 60. Israel found that the fourth dose increased protective antibodies five-fold.

Borla told CNBC on Monday that Pfizer will have a vaccine that specifically targets Omicron prepared in March, though he said it was unclear whether this would be needed.

Borla also told CNBC that more tests need to be done to determine whether a fourth dose is necessary.

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