Pfizer's CEO said the company is working on booster shots that could combat coronavirus variants

  • Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company is working on booster shots that protect against coronavirus variants.
  • South Africa and the UK have identified new strains of the coronavirus that leads to COVID-19. 
  • Moderna will also start testing booster shots to protect against the new strains.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Pharmaceutical giant and developer of the first COVID-19 vaccine Pfizer plans to make booster shots to protect against variant coronavirus strains.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company is working on a process to create booster shots for any coronavirus variant. Speaking at Bloomberg's The Year Ahead conference, Bourla said Pfizer researchers had discussed how to protect against a variant strain when developing the COVID-19 vaccine.

South African researchers identified a coronavirus variant in late 2020, and the country's top disease expert said the strain is 50% more contagious than the original. Preliminary research suggested existing vaccines provide less immunity to the South African variant.

Read more: Humana just launched its answer to the new crop of insurer start-ups in the red-hot health plan market for seniors.

The variant, known as 501Y.V2, has spread to more than a dozen countries, but researchers have not identified the South African strain in the US yet.

Experts are investigating two other variants, first identified in the UK and Brazil, which are also thought to be more contagious than the common strain in COVID-19 patients.

The variant identified in the UK has been reported in multiple US states, including California and New York. Minnesota yesterday became the first state to identify the highly transmissible strain from Brazil in residents.

Biotech firm Moderna announced a plan on Monday to start testing a booster shot to protect against the coronavirus variant found in South Africa. Both Moderna and Pfizer had led the development of the COVID-19 vaccine using mRNA technology.

Millions of people globally have received the Pfizer vaccine so far as COVID-19 cases continue to climb. The US experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases following the winter holiday season, and states have struggled to quickly administer vaccine shots.

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