Pfizer CEO and Chairman Albert Bourla says life will return to normal within a year, but an annual COVID-19 shot is likely to be needed.
“Within a year I think we will be able to come back to normal life,” Bourla said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
But it will be a “new normal.”
“I don’t think that this means that the variants will not continue coming, and I don’t think that this means that we should be able to live our lives without having vaccinations,” Bourla said. “But that, again, remains to be seen.”
“The most likely scenario for me is that, because the virus is spread all over the world, that it will continue seeing new variants that are coming out,” Bourla said. “Also we will have vaccines that they will last at least a year, and I think the most likely scenario is annual vaccination, but we don’t know really, we need to wait and see the data,” he added.
Bourla’s prediction echoes that of Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel. When asked last week when things will return to normal, Bancel said, “As of today, in a year, I assume,” he said.
“If you look at the industry-wide expansion of production capacities over the past six months, enough doses should be available by the middle of next year so that everyone on this Earth can be vaccinated,” Bancel told Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Reuters reported Thursday.
Bancel said that even people who do not get the vaccine will “immunize themselves naturally” because the Delta variant of COVID-19 is highly communicable.
“In this way we will end up in a situation similar to that of the flu. You can either get vaccinated and have a good winter. Or you don’t do it and risk getting sick and possibly even ending up in hospital,” he added.
Bancel reportedly added that Moderna is “currently testing Delta-optimized variants in clinical trials.”
“They will form the basis for the booster vaccination for 2022. We are also trying out Delta plus Beta, the next mutation that scientists believe is likely,” he said.
Global vaccine data shows that just under 44% of the world’s population has received at least one dose of a vaccine. But President Joe Biden on Monday moved the goalposts again, saying nearly everyone must be vaccinated before the virus ebbs.
After receiving a booster shot at the White House, Biden was asked, “How many Americans need to be vaccinated for us to get back to normal?”
“97%, 98%,” Biden said. “I think we’ll get awful close. But I’m not the scientist. I think one thing is for certain. A quarter of the country can’t go unvaccinated and us not continue to have a problem.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the chief medical advisor to Biden, had previously predicted that herd immunity would only require 70% to 85% of Americans to be vaccinated.
While experts didn’t know exactly how many Americans would need antibodies to reach herd immunity as the pandemic began, the number ranged from more than 50% to upwards of 70%. Early on, Fauci, the top U.S. immunologist, put the number at 60% to 70%, but in April he started upping that number, saying in an interview with CNBC News that it would be “75, 80, 85%.”
But last month reports emerged that herd immunity may be unattainable as the virus keeps changing.
“This month, the Infectious Diseases Society of America estimated that delta had pushed the threshold for herd immunity to well over 80% and possibly close to 90%,” Bloomberg reported. “Public health officials like Anthony Fauci have drawn controversy by shifting the goalposts over the past year, increasing the number of people who need protection before hitting herd immunity. Meanwhile, vaccine hesitancy and supply issues mean most countries won’t get close to even the original numbers.”
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