The current vaccine is being tested against the Omicron variant, which was initially reported in South Africa.
Pfizer has already started working on a version of its COVID-19 vaccine specifically targeting the Omicron variant in case the current inoculation is not effective against the new strain, the US drugmaker's CEO Albert Bourla said on Monday. Bourla told CNBC that his company started testing the current vaccine against the Omicron variant on Friday. The Omicron variant was initially discovered in South Africa, reigniting worries of a global COVID-19 outbreak. "I don't think the result will be the vaccines don't protect," Bourla said. But the testing could show that existing shots "protect less," which means "that we need to create a new vaccine," Bourla said. He added that "Friday we made our first DNA template, which is the first possible inflection of the development process of a new vaccine."
Bourla compared the situation to earlier this year, when Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech developed a vaccine in just 95 days after worries that the prior formula wouldn't work against Delta, albeit that version was never used. The current vaccine is "very effective" against Delta, the executive said, adding that the companies expect to be able to produce four billion vaccine doses in 2022. The World Health Organization warned on Monday that the new Covid-19 'Omicron' variant poses a "very high" risk over the world. Bourla said that the antiviral pill would work as a treatment for infections caused by mutations.Pfizer's pill has been found to reduce hospitalization or death in newly infected, high-risk individuals treated within three days of the onset of symptoms by approximately 90%.