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Pfizer CEO sees annual COVID vaccine relatively than frequent boosters

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©Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla speaks during a news conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen after a visit to oversee production of Pfizer-BioNtech's COVID-19 vaccine at US pharmaceutical company Pfiz's factory

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Pfizer Inc (NYSE:) Chief Executive Albert Bourla said Saturday that an annual COVID-19 vaccine is preferable to more frequent booster shots in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Pfizer/BioNtech's COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to be effective against serious illness and death caused by the highly mutated Omicron variant, but less effective at preventing transmission.

With the number of cases rising, some countries have expanded COVID-19 vaccine booster programs or shortened the gap between vaccinations as governments scramble to strengthen protections.

In an interview with Israel's N12 News, Bourla was asked if he sees booster shots being given regularly every four to five months.

“This will not be a good scenario. I hope we'll have a vaccine that you have to do once a year," Bourla said.

"Once a year – it's easier to convince people to do it. It's easier for people to remember.

“So from a public health perspective, this is an ideal situation. We're looking at developing a vaccine that covers Omicron and doesn't forget the other variants, and that could be a solution," Bourla said.

Bourla said Pfizer could be ready to seek approval for a newly designed vaccine to fight Omicron and mass-produce it as early as March.

Citing three studies, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Friday that a third dose of an mRNA vaccine is key to fighting Omicron and offering 90% protection from hospital admissions.

A preliminary study released Monday by Israel's Sheba Medical Center found that a fourth injection raises antibodies to even higher levels than the third, but probably wasn't enough to ward off Omicron. A second booster vaccination is still advisable for risk groups, said Sheba.

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