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Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla acknowledges the innate difficulty of defeating COVID

April 13, 2022, 10:15 AM UTC

Good morning.

COVID is not going away, no matter how much we wish it would. Dr. Manoj Gandhi, who is senior medical director at Thermo Fisher Scientific, told Fortune: “We are probably only in the fourth inning, maybe the top of the fifth.” For those who don’t know baseball, that means five more to go…and there’s always the possibility of overtime—or, in baseball parlance, “extra innings.”

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla had a similar message when he spoke to Ellen McGirt and me for this week’s episode of our podcast, Leadership Next. Ellen asked what’s top of mind for him when it comes to COVID. Bourla responded:

“How to stay ahead of it. It is a virus that has some characteristics that are why it became a pandemic. One is that it changes constantly. And the second is that vaccinations or natural infections don’t create durable immune protection. The new protection wanes. You can get the disease, and then you can get it again.”

I also asked Bourla what lessons he had learned over the past two years that are applicable to other business challenges.

“I think by far the most important learning was that when you set up very big, dramatic goals for your people, and when they tell you it’s impossible, but you continue emphasizing that that’s the goal, you will be surprised how much better they will do…People have a tendency to severely underestimate what they can do. And when you ask them and you empower them to do things, you will be really, really surprised.”

Also, yesterday I spoke with Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat, who said the company plans to spend approximately $9.5 billion on offices and data centers across the U.S. this year, and create 12,000 new Google jobs in the U.S. by the end of the year.  

“We are continuing to bring more jobs and investment to diverse communities…There is a tremendous amount of talent in the U.S. and around the globe, and we want to provide an extraordinary experience for great talent…by providing more flexibility for mode of work.”

You can find Leadership Next on Apple or Spotify.

More news below.

Alan Murray


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This edition of CEO Daily was edited by Bernhard Warner.

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