Pour Clara Lyla Laudette and Conor Humphreys
MADRID/DUBLIN (Reuters) – Pfizer said on Friday that the COVID-19 pandemic could spread next year and announced plans to develop a three-dose vaccine regimen for children and adolescents aged two to 16 years.
The US laboratory made the comments as European countries prepare for new social and travel restrictions, and after a study warned that the rapidly spreading micron variant of the coronavirus was five times more likely to reinfect people than its Delta predecessor.
Pfizer executives said the company believes that by 2024, the disease should be endemic worldwide, which means it won’t be a pandemic. The company predicted that “Covid will transition to a potentially endemic state by 2024.”
Before the Micron variant, American expert Anthony Fauci predicted that the pandemic would end in 2022 in the United States.
Mikael Dolstein, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, announced plans to develop a three-dose vaccine regimen for ages 2-16, on a conference call that results from triple-dose vaccines among people over 16 showed the procedure offers greater protection.
“Therefore, we have decided to modify each of the pediatric studies to include a third dose in the series and to seek permission for a series of three doses instead of the two-dose series as initially planned,” the company said.
Pfizer developed its own Covid-19 vaccine using German BioNTech. The companies are working to develop a version of their vaccine to combat the Micron variant, but have not decided if it is needed. Pfizer executives said they hope to start a clinical trial of the updated vaccine in January.
STRENGTHEN WITH OMICRON
A study by Imperial College London found that the risk of reinfection with the micron variant is 5.4 times greater and shows no sign of being milder than the delta variant, with cases swelling across Europe and threatening end-of-year celebrations.
Imperial College said previous infections may offer up to 19% protection against reinfection with the new variant, noting that the study of hundreds of thousands of cases, including 1,846 confirmed cases in the name of Micron, had not been peer-reviewed.
The new findings could add urgency to countries’ efforts to speed up vaccination campaigns in an effort to relieve pressure on hospitals and health systems. So far, the increase in infections in the UK and elsewhere in Europe has not led to a significant jump in hospitalizations or deaths.
Uncertainty over Micron’s impact on the global economic recovery was reflected in the divergent paths taken by major central banks this week.
Germany, Ireland, Switzerland and Denmark have adopted new travel restrictions, following in the footsteps of France, which closed its borders this week to most non-resident Britons.
Since the coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan, China, nearly two years ago, more than 5 million people have died from Covid-19 worldwide and more than 272 million cases have been reported.
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