Pfizer CEO says omicron appears milder, but could lead to more mutations
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Tuesday said cases caused by the COVID-19 omicron variant appear to be milder than those caused by previous strains of the virus, but added that omicron seems to spread faster and may cause more mutations to crop up.
“I don’t think it’s good news to have something that spreads fast,” Bourla said while speaking at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit. “Spreads fast means it will be in billions of people and another mutation may come. You don’t want that.”
Anecdotal reports from South Africa have pointed toward omicron cases being milder, though health experts have been quick to point out that early cases of the new variant appear to have been clustered in young people, who are less likely to develop severe illness from any strain of the virus.
However, Bourla stressed that more work must be done before omicron is better understood. Pfizer is currently looking into whether or not COVID-19 vaccines are less effective against the new variant and should have some more information in the next few weeks, according to Bourla.
Bourla also expressed hope that the Food and Drug Administration will approve Pfizer’s oral COVID-19 treatment, Paxlovid. According to Pfizer, Paxlovid is 89 percent effective at reducing the risk of hospitalization and death resulting from the coronavirus.
Last month, Bourla said he had a “high level of confidence” that Paxlovid will be effective at treating cases of the omicron variant. As Bourla said at the time, the oral treatment was designed with future possible variants in mind.
“So that gives me very, very high level of confidence that the treatment will not be effected, our oral treatment will not be affected by this virus,” said Bourla.
During his discussion with The Wall Street Journal, Bourla also acknowledged that his company could have done more to help low-income countries with low vaccination rates. While Pfizer has been able to send more doses after ramping up its vaccine manufacturing, some African countries have recently asked that shipments be delayed due to their inability to use all the doses, he said.
Pfizer’s vaccine requires extremely cold conditions during transportation and storage to remain effective. Doses must be administered soon after the vials are warmed for inoculation to be successful.