Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tried distancing himself from the COVID mRNA vaccines on Friday, suggesting he only developed the “counterintuitive” technology under pressure from colleagues.
In a Washington Post Live special titled, “Moonshot: Inside Pfizer’s Nine-Month Race to Make the Impossible Possible”, host Jonathon Capehart asked Bourla on Thursday why Pfizer decided to pursue experimental mRNA vaccines despite the nascency of the developing technology.
“When you and your colleague were trying to decide which route to go down: the traditional vaccine route or the mRNA route. You write that it was ‘most counterintuitive’ to go the mrNA route. And yet, you went that route. Explain why,” Capehart said.
Bourla explained the mRNA decision “was counterintuitive because Pfizer was mastering- or let’s say we had very good experience and expertise with multiple technologies that could give a vaccine, and the Novartis that some of the vaccines are, we were very good in doing that. Protein vaccines, we were very good in doing that and plus many other technologies.”
Albert Bourla CEO of Pfizer, on why mRNA vaccine was counterintuitive. “I was surprised when they suggested to me that this was the way to go, and I questioned it.” pic.twitter.com/xs786HPTwb
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“mRNA was a technology, but we had less experience, only two years working on this, and actually, mRNA was a technology that never delivered a single product until that day, not vaccine, not any other medicine,” Bourla admitted.
“So it was very counterintuitive, and I was surprised when they suggested to me that this is the way to go, and I questioned it,” he continued. “And I asked them to justify how can you say something like that, but they came, and they were very, very convinced that this is the right way to go.”
“They felt that the two years of work on mRNA since 2018 together with BioNTech to develop the flu vaccine made them believe that the technology is mature and we are at the cusp of delivering a product.”
“So they convinced me. I followed my instinct that they know what they are saying. They are very good, and we made this very difficult decision at that time,” he added.
Bourla also admitted that despite pushing the “more risky” mRNA technology on the public, Pfizer felt it had “all the features required” to combat the COVID pandemic.
CAPEHART: And is it‑‑the thing about mRNA is that because it’s synthetic, it reduces the amount of time? It makes it a lot easier to readjust, reedit, refit to whatever virus you’re trying to make a vaccine for or trying to address?
BOURLA: You’re absolutely right. This is one of the many benefits that the technology brings. So the reason why they were suggesting something that was more risky clearly than the others was because of the many benefits if we were successful. We analyzed very well and knew that we are in a pandemic. And it is eventually possible that we will now see many new variants coming up. So we wanted to have a technology that if there is a need to adopt to the vaccine, we’ll be able to do it very quickly, and mRNA can do in weeks what other technologies require months.
And the second thing is that we wanted to be able to use a technology that will not limit abilities to boost immune responses with additional injections if there is a need, and mRNA is very good in that. Unlike, for example, adenoviruses, there are issues when you try to do a second or third dose. That creates issues.
So, for this and many other reasons, we selected to go with something that was clearly more risky, but if we were successful, it looked like it has all the features that are required to fight a pandemic in an expedient manner and in a mass scale.
Instead of taking credit for developing the mRNA technology, Bourla appears to be distancing himself from the decision to pursue mRNA vaccines, instead foisting responsibility to his “colleagues.”
Bourla then also suggested the vaccine was rendered ineffective due to the mild Omicron variant, and said that “annual revaccinations” is the “ultimate goal.”
“I felt and I had expressed that conviction that with a third shot, we should be able to get immune protection that will last for a year, and then we should be able to move to annual revaccinations, which is the ultimate goal,” Bourla said.
Notably, Bayer Pharmaceuticals Division President Stefan Oelrich admitted during the World Health Summit last November that a global pandemic was necessary to convince the world’s population to submit themselves to experimental mRNA technology injections.
“I always like to say: if we had surveyed two years ago in the public – ‘would you be willing to take a gene or cell therapy and inject it into your body?’ – we probably would have had a 95% refusal rate,” Oelrich confessed, adding, “I think this pandemic has opened many people’s eyes to innovation.”