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What happened at Fortune’s not-in-Davos gathering of business leaders

February 3, 2021, 5:00 PM UTC
Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Albert Bourla of Pfizer, and Mary Barra of GM on Leadership Next.
Stefan Rousseau—PA Images/Getty Images; Courtesy of Pfizer; Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg/Getty Images

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Though the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic kept the world’s business leaders from their annual January gathering at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Fortune decided to bring some of them together anyway. Virtually, of course.

On this week’s episode of Leadership Next, a podcast about the changing rules of business leadership, Fortune’s Alan Murray and Ellen McGirt talk about the leadership issues that came up during the virtual meeting with about 100 CEOs. The powerhouse group represents companies that collectively employ 7 million people and have a combined total of about $1 trillion in revenue.

“So together, the CEOs definitely have the power to change the world,” Murray said.

“Sounds to me like they’re planning on it now. And I was really impressed with the urgency and the earnestness and the generosity of spirit,” McGirt said.

Fortune’s guests at the online event included a number of CEOs directly involved in getting the pandemic under control, including Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, which makes one of the two main vaccines being used to protect people against COVID-19, and Larry Merlo, the CEO of CVS Health.

Murray and Bourla got right to it discussing the COVID variants breaking out in several parts of the world and whether the current vaccines work against them.

“We are investing big-time right now in the surveillance network that will very rapidly identify when and if we have a problem, and then very rapidly create a booster vaccine that will allow [the vaccine] to cover these new variants as well,” Bourla said.

As for getting vaccines into people’s arms, Merlo discussed the upcoming federal pharmacy program to open vaccine clinics.

Other guests at the event discussed on Leadership Next include Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, on the company’s all-electric future, and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, on Internet regulation both in the United States and globally.