JOHN MICKLETHWAIT: How frightened should we be about the new coronavirus variants?
ALBERT BOURLA: We should not be frightened, but we need to be prepared. So we are focusing right now on having a very good surveillance network, so every time that the new variant comes up, we should be able to test, at least in the labs, if the vaccine is effective or not.
Way back, we had discussed the possibility that a variant would arise for which the vaccine would not provide protection. And we were working on a process that will allow us to do the development very fast. Now we have started implementing this process.
I interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said it was especially important to get the second doses on time, because he thought that made a particular difference with the new variants. Do you agree?
I agree with that, absolutely. And I would say that in all scenarios, you need to make sure that you give the second doses within the time the studies recommend. And in our study we had from 19 to 42 days. Within this framework, the vaccine works. Beyond that, it’s a risk.
Is the Covid vaccine going to become like the annual flu shot?
I wouldn’t exclude that. If you were asking me two months ago, I would have said yes, it’s a possibility. If you ask me today, I think it is a high possibility. We do not know yet, but it looks like Covid is here to stay.
But also it looks like we have the tools to make Covid like the flu. That means it will not disturb our lives or the economy. We just need to be very vigilant about [tracking new] strains. And we need to be very vigilant about vaccinating people.
You’ve said quite recently that you could get six doses from every vial that you deliver, where previously people had talked about getting five. Can you just take us through that and how that changes some of the mathematics?
Getting six doses out of a vial was not a surprise to us. We knew it because we were filling the bottles. It’s just that when we were doing the studies, we had five doses. And then, when we applied for approvals, we didn’t have data to validate the six doses yet. With Europe we asked, “Would you like to wait a few weeks so that we can apply for six?” And they said, “No, you should apply now, and then when you have data for the six, you should provide it to us.”
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