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Pfizer to deliver Omicron vaccine in March

An omicron-specific vaccine will be ready in March as manufacturing activities are in top gear, Alber Bourla, Pfizer CEO said on Monday.

He said despite uncertainties around the need for an omicron vaccine or how it would be used, the biotechnology company will have some doses ready on urgent demand from some countries.

The vaccine will equally target other variants that are circulating.

“This vaccine will be ready in March. We are already starting to manufacture some of these quantities at risk. The hope is that we will achieve something that will have way better protection particularly against infections, because of the protection against the hospitalisations and the severe disease,” Bourla said in an interview on CNBC television.

“It is reasonable right now, with the current vaccines as long as you are having let’s say the third dose,” Bourla said.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are only about 10 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infection from omicron 20 weeks after the second dose, according to a study from the U.K. Health Security Agency.

Read also: Lagos resumes rollout of Moderna vaccines

However, the original two doses still provide good protection against severe illness.

Booster shots are up to 75 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infection, according to the study.

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said in December that there is no need for a booster shot that specifically targets omicron because the current boosters work well against the variant.

Stephane Bancel, Moderna chief executive on Monday said 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.

Bourla said it’s not clear whether a fourth dose is needed. He said Pfizer will conduct experiments to determine if another dose is necessary.

Israel has made the fourth dose of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine available to people over the age of 60, people with compromised immune systems, and healthcare workers.

Israel found that a fourth dose of the vaccine increases antibodies that protect against the virus fivefold a week after receiving the shot.

In countries such as the US, Omicron is driving up to a 24 percent surge in hospitalisations, leading to critical staff shortages. Omicron-driven infections have now outpaced Delta as the dominant variant globally.

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