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Pfizer boss warns against Covid-19 complacency as cases rise

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Pfizer Ireland boss Paul Reid. Picture by David Conachy

Pfizer Ireland boss Paul Reid. Picture by David Conachy

Residents line up for nucleic acid tests on a street during lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Shanghai, China, May 19, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song

Residents line up for nucleic acid tests on a street during lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Shanghai, China, May 19, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song

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Pfizer Ireland boss Paul Reid. Picture by David Conachy

The head of Pfizer Healthcare Ireland has urged the need for continued public vigilance against the Covid-19 as virus fatigue sets in.

Paul Reid said those eligible should continue with the second booster vaccine to ensure they are protected against the coronavirus and future variants.

“Knowing the data that’s behind the vaccines, we need to encourage people to continue to follow the guidance for vaccination,” the country manager for the pharmaceutical company said.

Pfizer and German firm, BioNTech, were the first to bring a Covid-19 vaccine to market with their Comirnaty shot.

Mr Reid said research shows that the booster dose restores Covid-19 immunity to an even higher level than the original vaccine, but they don’t know yet how long that booster immunity will last.

“It’s really difficult to know. I think our ask at the moment is that governments continue to urge the booster programme for the eligible population,” he said.

Pfizer is currently researching the vaccine’s efficacy against variants of Covid-19 including providing enhanced efficacy against the Omicron variant, he added. The company is also examining whether the MRNA technology used to develop the Covid-19 vaccine can be applied in other areas of medicine such as oncology, he said. 

Mr Reid’s comments come as the World Heath Organization has warned that Covid-19 cases in most parts of the world are rising as two new and highly transmissible strains of the Omicron variant have been detected.

Mr Reid said he while there is “definitely a sense of Covid-19 fatigue”, Ireland is “in a very good situation” in terms of its high vaccine uptake.

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“I think people should not become too complacent, just because we have it relatively under control now than where we were this time last year. It will only take another variant or another outbreak and suddenly, we are back to square one looking at how do we get everyone vaccinated with the required number of doses. You are better off following the guidance as it comes.”

On Pfizer’s “game changer” antiviral pill, Paxlovid, Mr Reid said it was up to the Health Service Executive to recommend who should benefit from the treatment. It emerged last week that 65 doses of Paxlovid had been administered in Ireland since the drug became available here last month.

The State bought 5,000 doses of the pill which have been used to treat older, unvaccinated, high-risk and immunocompromised patients. “We’ve signed a bilateral agreement with the State, so that’s great. That means we’ve been able to make that treatment available to patients who may benefit from it,” he said. “We have the licence, but it is up to the HSE and the Therapeutic Advisory Group to recommend who should benefit from the treatment.”

Vaccine manufacturers are under pressure to share vaccine technology to allow for the manufacture of generic vaccines that could potentially be made and manufactured in developing countries. However Mr Reid said supply is not the issue as Pfizer is “making the vaccine available in an equitable and affordable way across the globe”.

Vaccine donations to developing countries is also impacted by infrastructural challenges. “A lot of it is down to their infrastructure to take in a vaccine. As you know, it’s refrigerated at very low temperatures. So do they have the infrastructure to take it in? Do they have the trained resources to administer the vaccine? And then there is also the culture in some countries where the uptake of vaccines has never been high and therefore it is going to be a challenge.”

Ireland has committed five million doses, mostly through the WHO-backed Covax initiative, which is co-ordinating the supply of vaccines to less developed states. But only 1.8 million have been delivered.

The Department of Health said vaccine donation activity has reduced substantially this year, and while millions of doses have been put forward by Ireland for donation, there is “a significant emerging supply and demand imbalance.”


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