Pfizer CEO says Covid vaccines, boosters needed to break cycle of virus even with effective pills

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC on Friday that despite the company’s promising data on an antiviral oral Covid pill, vaccines and vaccine boosters are still important in the fight against the virus.

“The fact that we have a treatment is not at all a reason not to take the vaccine, in fact we should take the vaccine. Some unfortunately will get the disease,” Bourla said in an interview with “Squawk Box“.

The antiviral pills are “for people that already they got the disease. This is for sick people, the goal here is to prevent people from getting sick,” Bourla said. That’s where Covid booster shots come in, he added. “Boosters are needed because without them we will never get rid of this vicious cycle of the disease.”

Some people still experience harsh breakthrough infections and symptoms, and that’s where Pfizer’s new pill, if approved, would be most useful. “We need to get to herd immunity,” Bourla said.

Pfizer said Friday its oral Covid pill, administered in combination with a widely used HIV drug, cut the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% in high-risk adults who’ve been exposed to the coronavirus. The company’s shares jumped roughly 11% in the premarket.

The Pfizer candidate is now the second antiviral pill behind one from Merck to demonstrate strong effectiveness for treating Covid at the first sign of illness. Merck shares fell 10% in the premarket on the prospect of competition in treatments.

If cleared by U.S. health regulators, these pills would likely be game changers in the ongoing global pandemic fight. Pfizer plans to submit its data to the Food and Drug Administration “as soon as possible.” Bourla told CNBC, “We plan to submit before Thanksgiving holiday.”

The antiviral pill made by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics was approved by Britain’s medicines regulator on Thursday. Later this month, U.S. regulators are set to evaluate Merck’s request for emergency use of its Covid drug.