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Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla reflects on the pandemic’s anniversary

March 12, 2021, 10:31 AM UTC

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Good morning.

I celebrated the anniversary of the pandemic yesterday by getting my second shot of the Pfizer vaccine, and then having a conversation with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. (No connection between the two, and no queue–jumping involved. I qualify by age and sat in a long line in the Lord & Taylor’s parking lot in Stamford, Ct., to get my turn.)

I asked Bourla to reflect on the anniversary. His response:

“I think it is very impressive that a year from a major disaster for humanity, we are emerging with a sense of liberation.  To see the Israeli ministry of health with their data so revealing of what a vaccine can do for societythat is the best demonstration of the power of science and the power of human ingenuity.”

If you missed it, the Israeli news is here. What it shows is that the vaccine is highly effective in preventing “symptomatic” as well as “asymptomatic” infections—meaning it is highly unlikely a vaccinated person can be infected or spread infection.

I asked Bourla many of the questions people have been asking me:

Can I travel without risk, now that I’ve been vaccinated? 

“Our data demonstrate efficacy from the seventh day. Everybody else demonstrated efficacy from 14 days. You are very reduced risk. Nothing is 100% in biology.”

Can I spread the disease to others?

“The Israeli minister said they saw 94% protection from asymptomatic disease. This is extremely, extremely good news.”

Is there evidence suggesting one of the new variants is not susceptible to the vaccine?

“With everything we see and know right now, we believe the current vaccine is effective against all three variantsSouth African, Brazilian and U.K. With the U.K., we have clinical evidence.”

Will I have to get a booster?

“I think there is a very high chance that everybody will be getting a booster annually…There are scenarios where you might need one sooner.”

Will you require Pfizer employees to be vaccinated before returning to the workplace?

“We don’t require, we don’t mandate it. The right to work is a basic right…(But) you can create incentives for people to be vaccinated, by requiring it to go to the cinema or to go to a concert or to go to a sporting event.”

Pfizer has had an amazing year of innovation. Do you think co-locating in an office spurs innovation?

“We can only guess right now….What we learned from COVID is the virtual experience can replace a very big part of what we thought before was irreplaceable…. But…it is not the same if you haven’t met before. It is also true that a building is a center of culture. It creates essential belonging…Our expectation is that you will come to work two or three days a week and you will stay home two or three days a week.”

Are you changing your offices?

“Big time. I will be in an open space office. The whole building will be open space, with very few dedicated seats.”

More news below.

Alan Murray


Chinese antitrust

China's antitrust watchdog has dealt out fines to some of the country's most recognizable corporate names—including Baidu, Tencent, Didi Chuxing, SoftBank and a ByteDance affiliate—over deals that caused excessive market concentration. Reuters

Brexit effect

Who knew massive trade barriers would reduce trade? The U.K. certainly knows now: its Office for National Statistics this morning reported a 40.7% drop in exports of British goods to the EU in January, the first month in which Brexit proper had taken effect. Imports from the EU dropped 28.8%, though this may have something to do with British stockpiling ahead of the transition period's end. These are record-breaking drops, and they're not down to the pandemic, because there were no similar falls in the U.K.'s trade with non-EU countries. Financial Times

Apple suit

Apple has sued a former employee, Simon Lancaster, for allegedly sharing the company's trade secrets—relating to unreleased hardware and other upcoming announcements—with a reporter. The iPhone maker claims he did so in exchange for positive coverage of a startup he'd invested in. Fortune

Novavax results

Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine is more than 96% effective against early coronavirus strains, the Maryland company reported yesterday. This is based on a U.K. trial; until its U.S. trial is complete, Novavax can't apply for emergency authorization there, but the EU is already reviewing the drug. As for the more contagious U.K. variant (B.1.1.7), Novavax's jab has 86% efficacy—though it's entirely effective in suppressing severe cases caused by any strain. NBC News


AstraZeneca trouble

More countries have decided to pause their rollouts of AstraZeneca's vaccine, due to potential (but unproven and frankly unlikely) links between the jab and dangerous blood-clotting. The latest to temporarily shun AstraZeneca include Italy, Norway and Thailand. However, the Philippines and Australia are siding with the European Medicines Agency, which says there is no reason to suspend the vaccine's deployment. Bloomberg

Vaccine geopolitics

Slovakian health minister Marek Krajci has resigned over the country's purchase of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, in a move designed to stave off a government collapse over the issue. Some parties in the governing coalition said the Russian deal threatened Slovakia's West-facing orientation. Meanwhile, China has scored a big vaccine-diplomacy win, after the International Olympic Committee accepted its offer to vaccinate athletes at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo this July. Al Jazeera

Driver data

Uber and Lyft have agreed to share information about drivers that one or the other platform has had to ditch over complaints about sexual assault or other crimes. The shared database will initially be U.S.-only, and will be open to other gig-economy platforms such as those in the delivery sector. Fortune


The White House is getting its first Senate-confirmed national "cyber" (i.e. cybersecurity) director, and Jane Holl Lute (former deputy secretary of homeland security) and Peter J. Beshar (Marsh & McLennan general counsel) have ideas about what that person should do, in the wake of the epic SolarWinds attack. "If disaster strikes, the director will serve as the point person in coordinating the government’s nonmilitary response," they write for Fortune. "While that process is unfolding within the federal government, business leaders across virtually every industry need to step up to support these efforts." Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.