Pifzer, Moderna, Preparing for Omicron Strain

NEW YORK -
Vials with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine labels. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo)

The CEOs of Moderna and Pfizer, the two drugmakers behind the most widely-available coronavirus vaccines, both said that their respective companies were preparing to tackle the newly-emerging Omicron variant.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told CNBC on Monday that it would take months for the company to start shipping vaccines that were modified to work specifically against the Omicron variant, which was discovered in South Africa and has prompted international alarm and travel bans.

Barcel said the efficiency of the Moderna vaccine against the new mutation is currently not known, but more information can be expected in two weeks. The company is testing a higher dose of its existing booster and modifying potential boosters against the new variant.

Separately on Monday, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC the company’s new Covid-19 treatment pill is expected to be effective against the Omicron variant. The pill, Paxlovid, was submitted to the FDA earlier this month for authorization to be used for emergency use.

In a clinical trail with adult participants, Pfizer reported that the pill reduced deaths and hospitalizations by 89% when taken with another anti-viral oral medication.

“The good news when it comes to our treatment, it was designed with that in mind, it was designed with the fact that most mutations are coming in the spikes,” Bourla told CNBC. “So that gives me very high level of confidence that the treatment will not be affected, our oral treatment will not be affected by this virus.”

The company expects to produce 80 million courses of the pill; the Biden administration has purchased 10 million courses for $5 billion.