Pfizer says pandemic could extend to 2024

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Pfizer Inc has forecast that the COVID-19 pandemic would not be behind us until 2024 and said a lower-dose version of its vaccine for 2- to 4-year-olds generated a weaker immune response than expected, potentially delaying authorisation.

Pfizer Chief Scientific Officer Mikael Dolsten said in a presentation to investors that the company expects some regions to continue to see pandemic levels of COVID-19 cases over the next year or two. Other countries will transition to "endemic" with low, manageable caseloads during that same time period.

By 2024, the disease should be endemic around the globe, the company projected.

"When and how exactly this happens will depend on evolution of the disease, how effectively society deploys vaccines and treatments, and equitable distribution to places where vaccination rates are low," Dolsten said. "The emergence of new variants could also impact how the pandemic continues to play out."

Pfizer developed its COVID-19 vaccine with Germany's BioNTech SE , and currently expects it to generate revenue of $31 billion next year. It plans to make 4 billion shots next year.

The drugmaker also has an experimental antiviral pill called Paxlovid which reduced hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk individuals by nearly 90 per cent in a clinical trial. Three analysts estimate sales of $15 billion to $25 billion for it next year, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Pfizer's forecast came after the emergence of the Omicron variant last month, which has more than 50 mutations compared with the original version of the virus. That has reduced the effectiveness of two doses of the vaccine against infection, and spurred fear of rapid spread around the globe.

Prior to the Omicron variant, top US disease doctor Anthony Fauci forecast the pandemic would end in 2022 in the United States.

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