Pfizer CEO pushes back against former CDC head over vaccine IP rights

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla discussed COVID-19 booster shots

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Sunday pushed back against calls to waive the company’s intellectual property rights to its COVID-19 vaccine for what critics claim will speed up vaccine distribution in poorer countries.

Bourla defended intellectual property rights on ABC’s "This Week" after Tom Frieden, the former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, blasted Pfizer and Moderna, saying both companies were "focusing on selling expensive vaccines to rich countries" instead of closing the global gap in vaccine supply.

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"Intellectual property is what created the thriving life sciences sector that was ready when the pandemic hit," Bourla said. "Without that, we wouldn’t be here to discuss if we need boosters or not because we wouldn’t have vaccines."

Bourla also said the U.S. government in a recent agreement with the company bought 1 billion vaccine doses at cost, and they donate those doses at no cost to poorer countries.

"There’s no other company that can claim to have done so much good for humanity than we have done," Bourla said, calling Frieden’s comments "unfair."

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He said he believes the world could return to "normal life" within a year, although vaccinations will still be needed as new variants will likely continue coming out around the world.

Bourla noted that future vaccines could last at least a year to fight these new variants.

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Last week, Pfizer’s announced that its vaccine is safe for children 5 to 11. 

Bourla said the company will submit its data within days to the FDA, and that Pfizer has manufacturing in place to produce this form of the vaccine for when the agency approves it.