Pfizer's Omicron Vaccine Should Be Available in March—Too Late?


Jan. 11 2022, Published 8:46 a.m. ET

The omicron variant of the COVID-19 variant has been sweeping across North America and Europe. Countries in Asia, especially India, the world’s second-most populous country, have also seen a spike in cases. Many people wonder if there's a vaccine for the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus. Here’s what the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna have to say about the timeline for the omicron variant vaccine.

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Pfizer and Moderna are the two most widely used COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. The soaring demand for their vaccines is reflected in their stock prices. Both of the stocks have gained sharply since the vaccines received a EUA (emergency use authorization). In 2021, Pfizer became the first and only vaccine maker to get full FDA authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccines haven’t been as effective against omicron.

The dual shot Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have proven to be far less effective against the omicron variant. However, the booster doses have been effective. Israel is even offering a fourth booster dose.

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The existing vaccines aren't omicron-specific. Vaccine makers have been working on vaccines that can tackle the omicron variant better than the existing vaccines. Moderna and Pfizer have outlined plans for a vaccine for the omicron variant.

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Pfizer expects its omicron vaccine to be ready by March.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has said that the company will develop a vaccine for the omicron variant by March. He also said that two doses of the current vaccine aren't effective. A third dose provides better protection against hospitalizations and is effective in lowering the fatality rate.

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The COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. have surpassed the 2021 highs as the record number of new cases has led to a surge in hospitalizations.

Moderna’s omicron vaccine to be available by the fall.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said that the company is working on a booster shot for the omicron variant, which should be ready by the fall. He also said, “We need to be careful to try to stay ahead of a virus and not behind the virus.” He said that the company can produce between 2 billion and 3 billion doses of the vaccine in 2022.

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Will omicron vaccines help?

Most experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, think that the omicron wave in the U.S. will peak by the end of January. In the “emergency” Round 11 modeling, which studied the impact of the omicron variant in the U.S., the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub also said that most models predict that both new cases and hospitalizations will peak before the end of January.

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All of the models predict a peak by February and none forecast it extending to March. Most predictions are modeling the experience from South Africa where it took four weeks for the cases to peak and the numbers continued to decline over the next two weeks.

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Going by the models and the omicron vaccine timeline provided by Moderna and Pfizer, by the time we get a vaccine for the contagious variant, it would have already surpassed the peak, at least in the U.S.

However, the vaccine could still achieve some purpose. Pfizer has said that the omicron vaccine would also target the other variants that are in circulation. The company has even started the production of these vaccines at its own risk, pending the regulatory clearances.


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