The head of Pfizer has said that people will “likely” need a third dose of his company’s COVID-19 shot within six to 12 months of vaccination, while defending the relatively higher cost of the jab.
CEO Albert Bourla also said annual vaccinations against the coronavirus may well be required.
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“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 broadcaster CNBC in an interview aired on Thursday.
“A likely scenario is that there will be likely a need for a third dose, somewhere between six and 12 months and then from there, there will be an annual revaccination, but all of that 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.”
Researchers currently do not know how long vaccines provide protection against the coronavirus.
Earlier this month, Pfizer published a study that said 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 up to six months after the second dose.
But researchers say more data is needed to determine whether protection lasts after six months.
Bourla also defended the price of his company’s vaccine, saying they are 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 Moderna vaccine.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov explained earlier this week that the vaccine’s price was rising as sales were being negotiated, costing as much as 19.50 euros ($23), up from 12 euros ($14).
The prices are in sharp contrast to the vaccine produced by British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca, which pledged not to make a profit on its product during the pandemic and sold it to the EU for less than two euros ($2.39) 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 the US or those in the EU.
“In middle-income countries, we sell it for half the price,” he said. “In poorer countries, including in Africa, we sell it at cost.”