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, Wednesday, July 28th. Following are links to video on CNBC.com:
Pfizer Sees 10 Percent Operational Growth With Covid Vaccine
Covid Immunity Wanes 6 Months After The Pfizer Vaccine
All references must be sourced to CNBC.
MEG TIRRELL: Hey Kelly. Well, let’s start with the second quarter. Pfizer posting a beat and a raise for the quarter, a lot of that of course driven by its massive COVID-19 vaccine and revenue there, but it also grew the underlying business 10% operationally in the second quarter. The forecast going way up for the COVID-19 vaccine for 2021 now up to $33.5 billion based on 2.1 billion doses contracted and they're gonna make 3 billion for the total year, this year, so that could go even higher. Company also providing updates for the vaccine for kids expecting data by the end of September, down to age five, showing that a third dose of the original vaccine boosts antibody levels against the Delta variant and also providing an update on its COVID antiviral drug and oral pill it plans to potentially have data for by the end of the year so let's bring in Pfizer CEO and Chairman Albert Bourla to talk about all of this and more. Albert, thanks for being with us. I want to start with some of the data you mentioned on the call about seeing the immunity wane after six months with the COVID vaccine. I think you mentioned that it not only wanes against disease in general but also against severe disease so once you start to get six to eight months out, the protection against hospitalization starts to go down into the 90% even the 80% range. Is that what you're seeing and is that the basis for your conversations with the US government and others about a need, a need for a booster?
ALBERT BOURLA: Meg, thank you. No, the basis is this data plus many other endpoints because these are important decisions that all the regulatory and health authorities of the world, they want to have a holistic view. There is a waning of the efficacy as you did notice, we just bring that today the data from our main study that was from the original virus, not the Delta variant, and it was the first month was 97%, the second two months was 90% approximately and the, and the four to six months was approximately 84%. We have seen also data from Israel but there is a waning of immunity and that starts impacting what used to be 100% against hospitalization. Now, at the six month’s period is becoming the low 90s, mid to high 80s. But the good news is that we are very, very confident that a third dose, a booster, will take up the immune response to the levels that will be enough to protect against the Delta variant and we are about, that about, in two weeks approximately by mid-August, we will submit those data to the FDA and properly we will get approval and then once those data are approved, the CDC will make their own decision.
TIRRELL: I’m wondering about those interactions that you've had with, you know, US health officials because when Pfizer said it was planning to apply for emergency use authorization for the booster dose, you got that immediate statement from the FDA and CDC saying, hold on, we don't need a booster right now. Do you get the sense that US health officials, the CDC, the FDA, others who are making these decisions are taking the data that you're giving them seriously and are going to act in order to protect people before immunity against severe disease really wanes to a significant point?
BOURLA: I have no doubt about it. They take the data very seriously. We had subsequent to this to their statement a lot of meetings and we, we presented to them data. They saw it, they have other data and they take it very serious.
KELLY EVANS: Albert, it's Kelly here. Is this normal for the sort of efficacy to drop the way that you're describing after four to six months’ time. You know, could you compare that for instance with something like a flu vaccine and what should we expect the booster shot to do. Does it extend it, you know, that efficacy really strongly for a couple months and then also taper off really strongly for another six months. What is your expectation?
BOURLA: It is not uncommon. I don't think it’s happening in flu. In flu, we have one source because every year we have a different variant. But also, on the other hand in the flu, we have very, very low levels of efficacy, the efficacy and the flu, it is depending on the year from 20%-30%, maybe if it's a good year 60%. But it's very common that you will have a three-dose schedule for initiation of immunity with vaccines. It's very, very common. It's happening with many vaccines
TIRRELL: Albert, we’ve seen the positive data you've shown both with a third booster against Delta, but we know you're also making sure that you have a Delta targeted vaccine candidate ready in case we need one. What would be the trigger for Pfizer deciding okay we've got to switch production over to the vaccine covering Delta or potentially another variant of concern that pops up in the future, heaven forbid?
BOURLA: No, the data and our collaboration with healthcare authorities. What we do as a standard, it is when we understand that the variant may present concerns. We don't take any risks. We start immediately working on developing a new specific vaccine for this variant. We did that for the Beta variant, this is the South African one. Actually the studies are about to be completed and we will submit data to the FDA for the new vaccine which would be a South African specific vaccine. We don't need it. We, we understood during the data that the third dose of the same vaccine would protect very well against the South African variant and again during the studies, we realized that in South Africa with a two dose of this vaccine in the first month, we have 100% efficacy. We do the same now with Delta. We are preparing and we are already one-third into this way and offer a specific Delta and Delta plus variant vaccine. It’s very likely that we will not need it but we will come, we will develop a vaccine but it is so important and there are so many things at stake right now with the public health that we cannot take chances. So, we just do it and if we, something we missed and we realized that the biology was complicated and we needed one, we don't have to wait three months to get it.
EVANS: Albert, one more question for me on kind of the COVID trends that we're seeing generally. A lot on Wall Street are focused on the UK and watching this kind of curve in what's happening with the case count where it seems like it's coming off the boil a little bit. Can you explain if you have any sense of why that's happening, what's contributing to this turnaround, what it might tell us about the way that Delta can be expected to continue to trend here in the US?
BOURLA: I do not know. I do not know. What I think I can make help for communities is that we see in the UK different results against data from our vaccine than in Israel and the difference is also that there is a different time interval so if you see the same results at the same period of time they are impressively aligned so the data are pointing to the same direction. In UK because they spread the second doses, they didn't do the second dose let's say 21 days after the first, they did after months, so they have, the majority of their people have the second doses in the one to three months period. This is why they see let's say less reduction. Israel was very successful in implementing their strategy and they did, they did it with 21 days so the majority of their people are January, February so they are already six and seven months from, from them and this makes the difference in the results.
TIRRELL: That's interesting, Albert. You know, you gave a big outline of what you're most excited about in your pipeline on your conference call today and one of the things you mentioned was your COVID antiviral drug that you're working on. This would be an oral pill and you're combining it I believe with another antiviral in the testing to try to prevent severe disease for people just diagnosed with COVID and you expect results in the fourth quarter. How optimistic are you that this pill will really work against COVID and provide us another important tool to work alongside the vaccine?
BOURLA: You know, science is unpredictable many times. The elements are there. The antiviral activity in vitro, or preclinical in animals is very strong. And on the other hand, the concentration of this new medicine in human tissues when we did the preclinical trials, also is very strong. So, we know that the drug will be to the tissues that are of interest and we know that it kills the virus, but we need to prove that with a phase three study that is happening right now. Again, just in case I approve and I said that today in the earnings call, $1 billion dollars investment a few days back which means that we are going full speed with all trials in parallel for this antiviral. We will run four, I think, studies approximately and we are manufacturing at the risk we made commitments that we will pay all the suppliers so they are providing now raw materials we are building the equipment and we will manufacture it. Hopefully, it will be successful for the world. The $1 billion, it's not the big consideration but having an effective tool, oral, that can be used at home is very important for public health considerations.
TIRRELL: Albert, I also want to ask you just one last question about the Delta variant not on all of your vaccine plans and your drug development plans but on the business of Pfizer. Is the spread of Delta changing anything Pfizer is doing in terms of decision making, bringing employees back into the office altogether, for example. Is it changing any, any of your strategy?
BOURLA: Not so far but always our strategies are flexible and they are based on the health conditions of the neighborhoods, of the communities where we operate so it’s going to be very different, for example something in France than in Italy, and that will be different based on whether the situation of controlling the disease there. The same could happen in our offices in the West or East Coast or in the Midwest, so we constantly monitor a situation and if there is a need to take extra measures, we will.
EVANS: All right, very good. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla joining our Meg Tirrell and Meg, we thank you for all your work on this as always. Pfizer shares, by the way, moving towards session highs, up almost 4% at the moment, we will continue to watch it.