Pfizer Inc said on Friday the COVID-19 pandemic could extend through next year and announced plans to develop a three-dose vaccine regimen for children ages 2 to 16, a move that could delay its authorization.
The U.S. pharmaceutical company made its comments as European countries geared up for further travel and social restrictions and a study warned that the rapidly spreading Omicron coronavirus variant was five times more likely to reinfect people than its predecessor, Delta.
Pfizer executives said the company believed that by 2024, the disease should be endemic around the globe, meaning it would no longer be a pandemic. The company projected that "COVID will transition to an endemic state potentially by 2024."
Prior to the Omicron variant, top U.S. disease doctor Anthony Fauci forecast the pandemic would end in 2022 in the United States.
Announcing plans to develop a three-dose regimen for ages 2 to 16, Chief Scientific Officer Mikael Dolsten told a conference call that results of three doses among people older than 16 showed that the approach offered greater protection.
"Therefore, we have decided to modify each of the pediatric studies to incorporate a third dose to the series and seek licensure for a three-dose series rather than a two-dose series as originally anticipated," the company said.