Pfizer is working on a new vaccine to specifically offer protection against the Omicron COVID-19 variant, and it could arrive as soon as March, the company’s top executive says.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the drugmaker is working on the “hybrid vaccine” during remarks on Monday at the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference about addressing challenges in fighting the more infectious variant.
Researchers have said the Omicron strain is more effective against coronavirus vaccines because of more than two dozen mutations. Though believed to be less severe than prior strains, Omicron’s spread has caused surges in cases worldwide.
“It’s not a slam dunk because we need to make sure that we have not a vaccine that works against Omicron,” Bourla said at the meeting, according to an edited transcript by Refinitiv.
“I think the best, it is a vaccine that covers the others and works against Omicron. This is what we want to because that will be a very easy decision to switch to that one.”
Despite Omicron’s spread and infection spikes, Bourla said the United States is in a much better position to deal with the emerging challenges than it was a year ago.
“First of all, we have vaccines that they work, and we have manufacturing capacity that now has reached a peak,” he added.
“Our ability basically to give vaccines to everyone in the world, it is now — wherever they don’t have enough vaccination, it is more of a problem of hesitancy or infrastructure.”
Bourla said Pfizer’s vaccine development and ongoing research is helping it develop the new vaccine, which could also be effective against future variants. The original COVID-19 from Pfizer was co-developed by BioNTech.
The executive told CNBC on Monday that the Omicron vaccine “will be ready in March.”