Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has conceded that it is very "likely" that a vaccine-resistant coronavirus will emerge. Speaking during an appearance on Fox News, the Pfizer CEO says that it is not a question of if but when. Nonetheless, the pharmaceutical company says that its scientists are always looking at any new variants that appear to find a way around them.
Pfizer however notes that so far it has not identified any variants that are beyond vaccine efficacy. But they are working hard to ensure that if indeed such a variant appears, the company will be ready to address it.
In addition to this, Bourla said that Pfizer is also looking to start producing a modified version of its current vaccine to deal with these variants three months after they are discovered. Bourla added that Pfizer has managed to develop a process that will allow its scientists to develop a vaccine option for any variants that come up within 95 days.
The CEO also expressed confidence in its current vaccine saying that they are not only safe, but they have done extremely well to reduce the risk of death and hospitalization among affected patients. So far, vaccines have proved quite effective.
Even though the US has seen a surge in new COVID-19 cases linked to the delta variant, a massive percentage of deaths and hospitalizations have been linked to people without a vaccine. But the spread of the delta variant is casting a shadow on the use of the vaccine. There have been cases where vaccinated people have been infected by the virus.
There is also a fear that these mutations may continue and at some point, a variant will emerge that may wreak havoc even in vaccinated people. The US government noted that people may need a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine to curb the delta variant. It's not clear whether the third shot will be a modified version of the vaccine that people received in the first place.
But it looks like some of these large vaccine developers are getting ready for any eventuality. However, as long as there continues to be vaccine hesitancy, chances of mutation remain high. A report by the UK government noted that the increased cases of transmission among the unvaccinated create more opportunities for the development of new variants.
Nonetheless, the UK is one of the few countries with the highest national vaccination rates. The issue from a public health point of view is in emerging markets or developing countries.
Vaccination rates in emerging economies remain massively low and there is a risk that these low rates could provide enough room for the development of variants in the future.
The WHO has been calling for a global concerted effort to distribute vaccines around the world arguing that all countries will be safer if all regions get access to the vaccines. But as cases surge in the US and other major vaccine producers like India, it is unlikely that vaccines will become available for emerging nations.