The leading pharmaceutical’s Covid-19 oral treatment had earlier been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval under an emergency use authorisation (EUA) in December 2021.
Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla announced on Monday that a new vaccine targeting the fast-spreading Omicron variant will be ready in March this year adding that the leading drug company had already started manufacturing the doses.
“We [are] already starting manufacturing some of these quantities at risk,” Bourla told CNBC’s “Squawk Box”, noting that the new vaccine will target other variants.
While Pfizer’s CEO said that it remains unclear how the omicron vaccine is going to be used, his company plans to have doses ready as countries desperately seek to obtain it 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 hospitalisations 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,” added Bourla.
Simiarly, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC on Monday that the company is also working on a booster for this fall season to target the omicron variant. Bancel said that clinical trials for the new Moderna vaccine will begin soon amid a high demand from governments to prepare regular doses against the virus.
The Pfizer CEO’s statements come as countries administer booster shots to ensure the protection of their populations from the virus, given that the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine’s effectiveness drops to 47% from 88% six months after the date of the second dose.
Commenting on current debates on whether a fourth dose is needed to manage the virus, Bourla said that it is still unclear whether it is needed and that Pfizer will conduct experiments to determine its necessity.
Booster shots remain crucial amid the presence of the fast-spreading omicron variant as third doses are up to 75% effective at preventing symptomatic infection, according to a recent study from the UK Health Security Agency.
With countries scrambling to curb the spread of Covid-19 and its variants, Pfizer developed an oral treatment for mild-to-moderate coronavirus cases. The pill received the FDA’s approval in December for emergency use in adults and pediatric patients aged 12 years and above weighing at least 40 kilograms.
While Qatar has yet to authorise the use of the antiviral pill, countries like the UK and the US started placing orders for the drug, with the former ordering 2.75 million courses of the medication.
Omicron in Qatar
Qatar has been witnessing an alarming rise in Covid-19 cases over the past couple of weeks following the emergence of the fast-spreading Omicron variant. Local health officials have also attributed this to increasing negligence to Covid-19 measures by the public.
On Tuesday, Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health [MoPH] recorded 4,169 new infections, the highest number of Covid cases the has country registered since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.
The health ministry has been urging its citizens and residents to get their booster shots as soon as possible, assuring that the side effects of the third do not exceed those of the second shot.
Last month, Qatar’s senior health official Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal said that that taking the booster dose significantly raises the levels of antibodies.
“The side effects [following the second dose] include pain in the place where the needle was injected, mild fever, headache, and fatigue. Some would have side effects for two-to-three days and immediately respond to Panadol and no severe side effects were reported to the MOPH,” explained Dr. Al Khal.