First on CNBC: CNBC Transcript: Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla speaks with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” today about their vaccine being 94% effective and preventing asymptomatic infection.
WHEN: Today, Thursday, March 11
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WHERE: CNBC’s “Squawk Box”
Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” (M-F, 6AM-9AM ET) today, Thursday, March 11. Following is a link to video on CNBC.com:
Pfizer CEO On New Data Showing Vaccine Blocks 94% Of Asymptomatic Infections
All references must be sourced to CNBC.
MEG TIRRELL: Becky, thanks so much. That special guest is Albert Bourla the CEO of Pfizer. Albert, thanks for being with us this morning on this one year anniversary mark, you know, and you have this amazing vaccine and more data coming out this morning from real-world use in Israel and I honestly had to check this stat multiple times to make sure I understood it, 94% effectiveness and preventing asymptomatic infection on the ground there in Israel. Tell us about what you're finding there and what this means for stopping this virus.
ALBERT BOURLA: Thank you, Megan. This is a great opportunity I think that in this day of the first anniversary of the declaration of pandemic, we do have a message of hope coming from a country where they have vaccinated almost actually on Monday, 5 million of their people, might look small number for Israelis but that means that they vaccinated more than 55% of the total population, more than almost 80% of the eligible population, 16 and above. The data basically is telling us three things I would say, Meg. The first is that they're confirming the efficacy. Actually the efficacy so far in Israel is coming at the 97% and that is not efficacy only against deaths or hospitalizations, but also on a mild disease so everything, all three measures, mild disease, hospitalizations and deaths are north of 97% in real world efficacy with millions of people vaccinated. The second as you pointed out, likely most important of all, it is that the data demonstrating 94% efficacy on asymptomatic. This is means that 94% protection against you getting infected even if you don't have the disease. This is extremely important, not particularly for you because you will not have the disease but for society, because the asymptomatic carriers, the asymptomatic patients are the ones that they are spreading the disease, Meg. So, this is the first time that we were expecting to have something good in terms of preventing asymptomatic, but this is the first time that we are coming with a confirmation of a real-world evidence study of that magnitude. And of course, we never expected that high number 94%.
TIRRELL: And also very interestingly, this was, this evidence was collected during a time when that B117, you know, highly contagious variant was dominant in Israel and it shows that your vaccine is equally or even more effective than we saw in the clinical trials against that variant. Tell us about what Pfizer is doing to stay ahead of these mutations in the virus. What you're looking at in terms of booster shots and what you expect in terms of the efficacy against some of the other concerning variants.
BOURLA: You’re absolutely right actually this is the third very important thing that comes out of this study but 80% of the strains, the dominance was 80% of the UK strain over there, and we achieved all these results so this is promising against variants. What we are doing against the variants, we have already initiated a study that we will try to see two things if we boost our vaccine with the same, third dose of the vaccine next six months and if we boost our vaccine with adapted vaccine for the South African variant, which seems to be the toughest one again six months. And then, we will see first of all if we don't need a boost because we have very good protection already with the two doses, that the reason our schedule is, or if we can achieve better protection by giving a third or if we can achieve better protection by moving to a new vaccine that will push the results and all of these studies we have initiated, already started dosing with, with the boost. We will jump into a few weeks into the new variant and we will have some evidence if there is a need to do something different than what we're doing right now.
TIRRELL: So, you're testing those booster shots at six months. I wonder how you're looking at the virus right now and the immune response generated by the vaccine. It's only a year into this pandemic, a brand new virus, we've only had the vaccines for a few months so it's hard to know but what are you planning as a company in terms of meeting to make enough vaccine for potential boosters, are you modeling that this could be a twice a year shot that people have to get?
BOURLA: Of course, of course we are modeling, and we believe that, I’m optimistic, cautiously optimistic that pretty soon, the supply will not be this. We may face other issues, logistics, how to make sure that we vaccinate all these people or we make sure that people that they are not convinced that they get to, they need to get the vaccine, need to be convinced, but supply after a few months I don't think will be an issue at least from our side. Right now, as we announced to the world we were about to make more than 2 billion doses actually I reviewed with my team, our manufacturing readiness recently, and right now, on a steady state for example on the entire 22, we will have a capacity of 3 billion doses. That would be if you have the run rate of what we're doing right now, it's going to be north of 2 billion, it’s only this year for your capacity of 3 billion doses. This is good enough to supply a very, very big part of the humanity.
BECKY QUICK: Hey, Albert very quickly just, we have been arguing for some time that it doesn't matter which vaccine you get if it's Moderna, if it's Pfizer, if it's J&J even though J&J had lower efficacy numbers because we said it really wasn’t apples to apples that they were being tested at a time when all these new variants that were out there. And when the case count was higher too so that likely the, the effectiveness was much more similar. Based on this new information that you're hearing, should I still feel that way. I mean I would still get any shot because I know that all of them are likely to keep me out of the hospital and I won't die if I get any of them, I won't die from COVID. But if you do pick up a mild version of it, even if it's not something that sets you down, could you be more likely to transmit it to somebody else in your household or someone else you come in contact with who has not been vaccinated.
BOURLA: Look, I'm getting this question a lot and I don't think it's elegant for me to speak about other vaccines but I will tell you in full honesty what I tell to my relatives or my, my family when they're asking me what to do and I tell them if you get, if you try to get an appointment for a Pfizer vaccine and the sender will give it to you in two months and you can get an appointment for another vaccine J&J let's say or let's say this week, I’d have you go and do the J&J vaccine.
QUICK: I understand that entirely. I understand that entirely and I think that that is the right thing to do and I think that is what I would do. But if you have someone who can't get the vaccine because they have some other issue, they have cancer or their child they still can't get it, if you get a mild grade version of this, are you likely to transmit it to somebody or does it really cut down no matter which vaccine you get, does it cut down the transmit ability, are they the same at that level.
BOURLA: I don't know. What I know is our vaccine is blocking, is protecting against asymptomatic infections at 94%. I don't know about J&J or Moderna.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Albert, it's great to see you and again, thank you just on behalf of everybody. My question was there was a great story about you and Pfizer on the cover of Business Week last week and it made, there was an interesting question embedded in it around the profit incentive and how to think about that. Your company is going to make a very good and healthy, more than healthy profit off of this over the next couple of years, I know you hope and I'm sure the board hopes. J&J chose not to. And I'm curious how you think about that, in this context.
BOURLA: I think that everybody, I don’t want to criticize or let’s say to make comments about others. In our case, we have made the following decisions. One was that we didn't take any taxpayer money to develop. We took all the risk on our shoulders within doing that because that would allow us to price it at higher levels because as you can see, we price it actually even smaller prices than other similar vaccines or what we have heard the US has purchased or very similar or lower. So, it wasn't the case. It was the case that we didn’t take the money because we felt that this will allow us to liberate our scientists from, let's say, the bureaucracy of having to report, having agreed with who gave the money what would be the study design and as a result, I think we took the risk but we were able to cross the finish line soon. The second decision that we made was to give it a cost as you know the price is known in the US, it’s the price of a meal. Clearly, the value that the vaccine brings to the world is way, way higher the economic value, not only the health value but the economic value that brings to the world is tremendous so we decided to come to a very, very small part of this value because we didn't want to abuse let's say our position that we could do that. So that's all I have to say, I think that the price for all Americans is free right now, the price the government is a fraction of what the economy is gaining about that, I don't think it’s appropriate to discuss the price of a vaccine that saves the world.
TIRRELL: It’s a fascinating discussion in different approaches to doing something like this. Albert, we have to go but one last question for you I know you were waiting-
BOURLA: Meg, if you do allow me, if allow me I’m sorry, I wanted to add something like that. In the low-income countries like Africa or some countries in the Middle East, we do give it, of course. Right. So, for those that even the, the low price of a meal is a problem we don't give it at cost. We don't give it at cost, but we give it at very, very low price as I said, in high-income countries that they have significant gains from. Sorry Meg, go ahead.
TIRRELL: It makes sense. And we’re just, we have to go to commercial Albert, have you gotten your shot yet?
BOURLA: I did, I did, I did my second shot few days ago and tweeted about it. And I felt liberated.
TIRRELL: Wonderful. Albert, thank you.
BOURLA: My family haven't received it yet, but I hope I pray the sooner we'll be able to get them vaccinated as well.
TIRRELL: I hope so too and you know now that the asymptomatic transmission is cut down. Albert, thanks again.
BOURLA: Thank you Meg.