We have previously suggested that omicron might be bullish for the economy and stocks due to signs that infections caused by the variant are less severe, which could help with the transition toward treating COVID more like the flu.
While he didn’t exactly go all-in on FUD like his rival, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said during an interview at the WSJ’s CEO Council that omicron might lead to still more threatening variants if it isn’t dealt with appropriately.
The prospect of another mutation emerging is something that keeps the CEO of the US’s best selling COVID jab up at night (although his company would stand to reap billions in profit should another generation of vaccines be warranted).
“I don’t think it’s good news to have something that spreads fast,” Bourla told his interlocutors at the summit.
“Spreads fast means it will be in billions of people and another mutation may come. You don’t want that.”
So far, data on the ground in South Africa has shown few if any serious cases caused by omicron. The South African Medical Research Council released a report on Saturday claiming that most patients admitted to a hospital in Pretoria who had COVID don’t need supplemental oxygen. The report also noted that many patients were admitted for other medical reasons and were then found to have COVID Still, South Africa has seen case numbers jump over the last week.
However, Bourla cautioned that drawing definitive conclusions from the wave of infection in South Africa would be “difficult”. Just 5% of South Africans are over the age of 60, and younger people normally have milder cases of COVID. However, many people in South Africa are also HIV positive, which means they’re at risk of more severe infections.
So far, most of the virus’s mutations have occurred on the spike protein, which is deeply involved in the mechanism it uses to attach to human cells, Bourla said. Vaccines and antibody treatments that target the spike protein may need updates when mutations occur on that part of the virus, he said.
Looking ahead, Bourla said he expects the number of confirmed omicron cases to surge from dozens to millions over the next few weeks.According to Pfizer it will only be a matter of weeks before they determine exactly how long it will take to eradicate this latest mutation. And pretty soon, Pfizer won’t only have its COVID vaccine, it’ll also be selling its new drug, Paxlovid, a COVID therapautic similar to Merck’s miracle drug.