Pfizer said Tuesday it’s “laying the groundwork” to create a vaccine booster that could respond to coronavirus variants.
“We should not be frightened, but I think we need to be prepared,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said during the Bloomberg The Year Ahead event Tuesday. “Once we discover something that it is not as effective, we will very, very quickly produce a booster dose that will be a small variation to the current one.”
Bourla said the company had discussed variants in the past and created a process to help it adapt quickly.
“We were working on a process that will allow us to do the development very fast,” Bourla said. “Now already we have started implementing this process.”
In a statement to CNN on Tuesday, Pfizer emphasized that the process is to respond, “if a variant of SARS-CoV-2 shows evidence of escaping immunity by our vaccine.”
“However, the studies needed to evaluate a vaccine that encodes an updated viral antigen have yet to be determined, in agreement with regulators. We will need to generate data that gives confidence that any updated vaccine is safe and effective. The updated vaccine to be administered as a booster would be subject to regulatory approval or authorization,” the statement said.
Last week, Ugur Sahin, who helped invent the BioNTech vaccine being made and distributed by Pfizer, tested his vaccine against the B.1.1.7 variant first seen in the UK. The team found “no biologically significant difference in neutralization activity,” they reported in a pre-print report. But they said it would be “prudent” to start tweaking the vaccine, just in case.
Vaccine maker Moderna announced on Monday two doses of its vaccine are expected to be protective against emerging strains of coronavirus detected so far, but out of an abundance of caution, it planned to test booster shots.