Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has provided an update on plans for a more Omicron-specific version of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Speaking with CNBC on Monday, Bourla was asked about the status of both an “update” to the current Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine and the possibility of another booster being recommended.

“We are doing everything we can to stay ahead of the virus,” Bourla said, as seen toward the beginning of the video below. “Let me start with, I don’t know if there is a need for a fourth booster. That’s something that needs to be tested. I know these are already started, some of these experiments. … Also, we are working on a new version of our vaccine, a version that will be effective against Omicron as well. It’s not that it won’t be effective against the other variants, but against Omicron as well. And the hope is that we will achieve something that will have way, way better protection, particularly against infections.” 

Bourla reiterated that those who are currently boostered do indeed have protection against hospitalization and severe symptoms, though the aim with the Omicron-targeting vaccine is to provide even greater protection.

“This vaccine will be ready in March,” Bourla said Monday. “I don’t know if we will need it. I don’t know if and how it will be used. But it will be ready. And in fact, we have already started manufacturing.” Per Bourla, this vaccine will be ready “immediately” in March due to several governors having expressed interest.

Also on Monday, Bourla said that simply having two vaccine doses (i.e. not being boostered) is “not enough” when it comes to the Omicron variant. “The third dose of the current vaccine is providing quite good protection against deaths, and decent protection against hospitalizations,” he said at a J.P. Morgan conference.

As for the Omicron-targeting vaccine, again per CNBC, at least one health expert is arguing that a March release is “too late.” Dr. William Moss, who serves as executive director at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s International Vaccine Access Center, instead argued that such a vaccine should have arrived in December, though it could still prove “valuable” when it’s finally released.

In December, Pfizer announced additional study results showing a “robust efficacy” for its COVID-19 oral antiviral treatment candidate. At the time, Bourla said the pill (named Paxlovid) could become a “critical tool” in the ongoing pandemic battle. Also in December, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for the pill.

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