Pfizer CEO: Omicron Spreading Fast But Mild Isn’t A Good Thing, Could Infect Billions, Lead to More Mutations

Pfizer CEO: Omicron Spreading Fast But Mild Isn’t A Good Thing, Could Infect Billions, Lead to More Mutations


People pass through during the morning rush-hour at Waterloo railway station in London, Dec. 14, 2021. As of Monday in England, people were urged to work from homes with long lines forming at vaccination centers for booster shots. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

The omicron variant appears to be milder than previous strains but it is spreading faster and this could lead to more mutations in the future, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told The Wall Street Journal.

Bourla said he expects the number of confirmed covid-19 cases to surge from dozens to millions over the next few weeks.

“We will have a good understanding, let’s say before the year-end, as to what exactly it means for clinical manifestation,” Bourla said.

Omicron found its way to more than 40 countries in less than two weeks after it was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) Nov. 24.

Bourla stressed that more work must be done to understand omicron better. Pfizer is currently looking into whether or not covid-19 vaccines are less effective against the new variant.

It will take a few weeks to determine whether the current vaccines provide enough protection against the variant, according to Bourla.

“I don’t think it’s good news to have something that spreads fast. Spreads fast means it will be in billions of people and another mutation may come. You don’t want that,” Bourla said.

Pfizer is confident that its oral antiviral medication, Paxlovid, will fight omicron and every other variant of the virus that has emerged so far, according to Bourla. The pill inhibits an enzyme the virus needs to replicate, known as protease.

Reports from South Africa, where omicron was first identified and is becoming the dominant strain, suggest that hospitalization rates have not increased alarmingly.

“Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it. But we have really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or it really doesn’t cause any severe illness,” siad Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, earlier in December.

Bourla said he does not expect the total elimination of covid-19 any time soon. But he noted that the public will start to view the virus like the seasonal flu as more get vaccinated and more powerful treatments come to the market.

He said there is a need to overcome “the small problem of getting politics out of the equation” and more people need to get vaccinated, adding that society will never reach 100-percent vaccination.

“That’s why treatments unfortunately will be needed. But we can live normal lives. ‘Normal lives’ means that you can go to restaurants and don’t need to wear masks and suffocate every day,” he said.

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