Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO, told CNBC on Friday that despite the company’s promising data on an antiviral oral Covid pill, vaccines and vaccine boosters are still important in the fight against the virus.
“The fact that we have treatment is by no means a reason not to take the vaccine, but rather we should take the vaccine. Unfortunately, some will get the disease,” Bourla said in an interview with Squawk Box.
The antiviral pills are “for people who already have the disease. This is for sick people, the goal here is to prevent people from getting sick,” said Bourla. This is where Covid booster shots come in, he added. “Boosters are necessary because without them we will never get rid of this vicious cycle of disease.”
Some people still experience serious breakthrough infections and symptoms, and this is where Pfizer’s new pill, if approved, would be most useful. “We have to achieve herd immunity,” said Bourla.
Pfizer said Friday that its oral Covid pill, given in combination with a widely used HIV drug, reduced the risk of hospitalization or death in high-risk adults exposed to the coronavirus by 89%. The company’s shares rose more than 9% in early trading.
The Pfizer candidate is now the second antiviral pill after one from Merck that shows strong efficacy in treating Covid at the first signs of disease. Merck shares fell more than 9% on the prospect of competition in treatments.
If these pills were approved by US health regulators, they would likely change the rules of the game in the ongoing global battle against the pandemic. Pfizer plans to submit its data to the Food and Drug Administration “as soon as possible”. Bourla told CNBC, “We plan to submit before Thanksgiving.”
The antiviral pill, made by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, was approved by the UK Medicines Agency on Thursday. Later this month, U.S. regulators will consider Merck’s application for emergency use of its Covid drug.