Tue, 11 May 2021

The head of the Pfizer pharmaceutical company has warned that people will probably need a third dose of his laboratory's Covid-19 shot within six to 12 months of vaccination, adding that annual booster shots may also be required. The Pfizer chief has defended the relatively higher cost of the treatment.

Speaking in an interview on American television, Pfizer CEO, Albert Bourla, said that his company was currently evaluating long-term vaccination needs, but that a third dose and annual revaccination were a "likely scenario".

"We need to see what would be the sequence, and for how often we need to do that, that remains to be seen," Bourla told CBC. The whole situation needs to be confirmed, he said, adding that variants will play a "key role".

"It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus," he said.

Protection horizon currently unknown

Researchers currently don't know for how long vaccines will provide protection against the coronavirus.

Pfizer published a study earlier this month claiming that its jab is more than 91 percent effective at protecting against the coronavirus, and more than 95 percent effective against severe cases of Covid-19 for up to six months after the second dose.

But researchers say more data is needed to determine whether protection lasts beyond six months.

David Kessler, the head of US President Joe Biden's Covid-19 response team, warned a congressional committee on Thursday that Americans should expect to receive booster shots to defend against coronavirus variants.

"We don't know everything at this moment," he told the House Coronavirus Crisis Subcommittee. "We are studying the durability of the antibody response.

"It seems strong but there is some waning of that and no doubt the variants challenge" that, he said. "I think for planning purposes, planning purposes only, I think we should expect that we may have to boost."

Pfizer defends price and profit policy

Bourla also on Thursday defended the price of his company's vaccine, saying the product is saving lives and will not be sold to poor countries for a profit.

"Vaccines are very expensive," Bourla said in an interview with several European news outlets.

"They save human lives, they allow economies to reopen, but we sell them at the price of a meal," he was quoted as saying.

According to data released several months ago by a member of the Belgian government, the Pfizer coronavirus jab has been the most expensive one for the European Union, along with the vaccine produced by rival company Moderna.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov explained earlier this week that the Pfizer vaccine's price was rising as sales were being negotiated, costing as much as 19.50 euros, up from 12 euros.

Pfizer ten times more costly than rival jab

The prices are in sharp contrast to those of the rival shot produced by British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca. The producers of the AZ treatment have vowed not to make a profit on the product during the pandemic and have sold it to the EU for less than two euros a unit.

Bourla did not confirm the price of the Pfizer vaccine but admitted that it was sold at a higher price to developed countries like those in the EU or the United States.

"In middle-income countries, we sell it for half the price," he said. "In poorer countries, including in Africa, we sell it at cost."

Bourla also said that Pfizer is working on a new formula that would allow the vaccine to be stored for four to six months at a normal temperature, rather than the minus 70 degrees Celsius which is currently required.

Originally published on RFI

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