Pfizer CEO: No Variant Escapes Our Vaccine Protection

CNBC Exclusive: CNBC Transcript: Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla Speaks with CNBC’s “The Exchange” Today

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Q1 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more

WHEN: Today, Tuesday, May 4

WHERE: CNBC’s “The Exchange”

Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC exclusive interview with Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla on CNBC’s “The Exchange” (M-F, 1PM-2PM ET) today, Tuesday, May 4. Following is a link to video on

Pfizer CEO: No variant identified so far that escapes our vaccine protection

All references must be sourced to CNBC.

MEG TIRRELL: And Albert thanks for being here. You know you reported Q1 results this morning and let’s start right there with what Kelly mentioned about Jim’s comments this morning about sort of the head scratching reaction from your stock to the results, not just the COVID vaccine which of course is blowing expectations out of the water, you forecast now $26 billion in sales this year, you’re forecasting durable revenue from the vaccine like a flu like market, you developed it in record time during a pandemic and you grew the rest of the business 8% during the first quarter and yet your stock is flat today, and only up about 8% year to date. What do you think is not resonating with Wall Street right now in terms of your business when you look in the face of everything that you’ve just done?

ALBERT BOURLA: Meg, when it comes to stock, I think that this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And actually this is not my own quote, this is the advice that Ian Read gave me when I took over. And what I know is that you need to have to do the right things, you need to have operational performance and the stock price will follow so right now I’m really focusing on creating more vaccines, producing more vaccines for the world, distributing them safely, making sure that we will be ready for the next pandemic, making sure that we will be ready for the variants that may escape the protection of our vaccine and of course investing in R&D.

TIRRELL: Well let’s talk about vaccinating the world, you know, Pfizer has said you’ve got manufacturing capacity for up to 2.5 billion doses in 2021, you’ve struck agreements for 1.6 billion doses, help us think about how to think about that capacity that’s not accounted for right now 900 million doses, if, if countries don’t strike deals for those doses, what do you think is the right thing to do in order to supply the world. Should rich countries buy them and donate them? Is there an agreement that could be worked out with COVAX, the World Health Organization facility? How do you think about the best way to supply your vaccine to the world this year?

BOURLA: Those doses which are at least 2.5 billion this year and will be 3 billion next year are for the whole world and price should not be an obstacle because we are giving these doses at tier pricing, the rich countries the high-income countries like the US, Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, they are paying one tier. The middle-income countries, they are paying half of this price and the low-income countries, they are offering these doses at cost. So right now, the price is not going to be the obstacle. We need to make sure that we have enough production for all and this is why we keep investing and this is why I feel very comfortable that we have this number for several reasons. One it is that we are having distribution and manufacturing networks across the world so for every stage of our manufacturing process, I have at least two or three manufacturing sites that are doing it so even if something goes wrong in one or the others could step in. The second is that right now our yields, our processes are so effective that we keep increasing the production and the third is our quality controls are so good that we haven’t rejected any single batch so far, or let’s say I think 1 million doses out of 425 million doses that we produced. So it’s, I’m very confident that we will have enough doses, it’s just coming in the next few months.

KELLY EVANS: Mr. Bourla, it’s Kelly here and thanks for joining us. What does the experiences in India and Brazil tell you about the efficacy of the vaccines and our bodies and generally antibodies in fighting COVID. You know there’s a lot of speculation right now that these resistance levels should be much higher among the population than they are. Does that mean it’s because of the variants that were susceptible to maybe getting it again, or that if people had resistance from being exposed or even from the vaccine they still could get it again? How frequently do you think we’re going to need booster shots or annuals, I mean is annual even frequently enough at this point, what’s your latest thinking about this?

BOURLA: First, let’s say that we should be looking at the data and with all the data I’ve collected so far, there is no variant that we have identified that escapes the protection of our vaccine. Even the South African has been, let’s say, being the one that it is the most challenging one. Our studies in South Africa demonstrated 100% efficacy and we know that it was not easy for all vaccines to demonstrate efficacy there. But nevertheless, we are working on new variants and because of the possibility that one of them will eventually evade the protection of our vaccine is there. So, we are developing right now, we have developed a variant of the South African mutant, but it is in the clinic and we are going to see if we need a specific vaccine or not, but that will also use as a regulatory pathway. What we want to do is to make sure that if a single variant is identified that it is escaping the protection of our vaccine, we will be ready within 100 days from that day to be able to have these manufacturers and the file submitted to regulatory authority.

TIRRELL: Albert, it’s Meg again. You know India and South Africa have requested that the intellectual property around the vaccines be waived so that they can manufacture the vaccines themselves. What is your response to this and whether it could increase the availability of the vaccine in those countries and around the world?

BOURLA: I don’t think that the waving of the intellectual property rights will do anything to their ability to manufacture. Clearly for the mRNA vaccine that I can speak, but it is our vaccine. Right now, the bottleneck is not manufacturing infrastructure because we have built enough starting from scratch. Bottlenecks are raw materials as raw materials are coming into manufacturing plants, we are increasing the production and those raw materials have provided enough support right now, scientific, technical, and other types of support to our providers of the raw materials which are highly specialized ingredients, so that we feel very, very comfortable that we will do 2.5 billion by the end of the year as I said 3 billion in total next year with the current situation. So, it’s not manufacturing capacity and by the way, I don’t think that any country right now is in a position to produce or any company mRNA right now over there because there’s no infrastructure ready. It’s not that we were producing vaccines before, and now we discovered another one, we were not producing mRNA vaccines before. So I truly believe that makes zero sense not to mention about the disincentives that will create the whole biotech industry, if waiving the patents, what does that mean in the next pandemic.

EVANS: And Mr. Bourla, it’s Kelly again. Let me just circle back for one second on, on this issue. So, let’s say I was fully vaccinated two weeks ago. How long, in terms of months, should I expect that protection to last would that take me through all of next winter?

BOURLA: Right now, we do have yearly data about six months and we know that six months post the second dose, we are having very strong protection. I have made comments publicly that we do expect that the booster likely would be needed somewhere between six and 12 months and this is based on all the evidence that we have seen, collectively, but remains to be proven and those evidence are based on people that they have COVID-19 vaccine after six months that they had the disease, the number of people that get an infection is getting higher, the fact that when you see our own protection data, although they maintain very high above 90% is 91%, and six months it used to be 95%, but the fact that we see immune-genericity data, but I say only that over the six months, there is a trend for declining. And also the fact that to protect against variants, you need very high immune responses because the, those variants have a tendency to create slower neutralizing types so with all of that in mind, it’s more likely than not that the booster will be needed between six and 12 months, and then we need to see likely it will be regular vaccinations to maintain the protection, but we don’t know yet for sure.

TIRRELL: And Albert, you mentioned that you have that six month follow up data and one of the things that allowed you to do is to prepare for filing for full approval of the vaccine which we understand, you said this morning, you will probably do by the end of this month here in the United States. What kind of timeline do you expect it might take you know for the FDA to weigh that and for there to be full approval granted and how will that change how we use the vaccine here in the US? Do you expect it could lead to more employers mandating it or schools mandating it especially of course as you’re waiting imminent news for 12 to 15 year olds for emergency use authorization?

BOURLA: Thank you, Meg. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to commend how fast FDA will do it. FDA will do it in the speed that they feel comfortable so that they can review the file and this is the right thing to do. Now what could change if we have a full authorization under the emergency use authorization, you can commercialize the vaccine on the, only under specific guidance from the government. So, we cannot just give it to employers or CVS privately or to other to Walgreens, other vaccination chains or the physicians cannot purchase it and use it in their practices. If you get full authorization, those channels are going to open. That being said, right now the government is still very, very engaged in contracts with us so I think still in the foreseeable future, a very big part of this business will be driven by government practices.

TIRRELL: Right Albert Bourla that makes sense and I should note my question might have been misleading, as you’re only planning to file for full approval at ages 16 and up at the end of this month. Thanks again, Albert, we appreciate you being with us.

BOURLA: Thank you very much.

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