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Photo: Axios.

Pfizer is working on a "new version" of its coronavirus vaccine that will be easier to store at higher temperatures, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told Axios during a virtual event on Wednesday.

Why it matters: One of the hardest parts of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout was ensuring that vaccination centers, pharmacies, and doctor's offices would have the correct — and very cold — storage conditions.

  • "As you know, we are right now registered in mind of 70 degrees Celsius, but we could use it two weeks in in a normal freezer," adding that Pfizer already has some data suggesting the vaccine could last for a month in a normal refrigerator.
  • "That's a significant improvement because that provides tremendous flexibility" for health workers "handling this vaccine."

What they're saying: "But also we are right now working on a new version of this vaccine that will be ready-to-use vaccine, so you don't need to reconstitute it, you don't need to dilute it."

  • "And this vaccine can be stored up to six months in normal refrigeration."
  • Bourla added that he was "very confident" the achievement could be done "pretty soon."

Watch the full event here.

Go deeper

May 20, 2021 - Health

Emergent paid execs bonuses despite ruining millions of J&J doses

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) speaks Wednesday during a hearing the Emergent BioSolutions CEO and executive chair of the board was questioned. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP Photo/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Emergent BioSolutions paid its executives hundreds of thousands of dollars each in bonuses in February just months before the manufacturer ruined 15 million of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Driving the news: Emergent BioSolutions’ executives faced questions from lawmakers during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on Wednesday as part of an investigation into the plant's failures.

  • The federal government paid the company $271 million as a reservation for its manufacturing capacity, documents posted Wednesday by two House committees show. Yet, to date, U.S. regulators have not cleared any doses for use from its manufacturing plant in Baltimore.
Updated May 19, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout

On Wednesday, May 19, Axios co-founder Mike Allen and health care reporter Caitlin Owens unpacked the unprecedented COVID-19 vaccine development process as well as the road ahead, featuring NIAID Director Anthony Fauci and Pfizer chairman & CEO Albert Bourla.

Anthony Fauci discussed the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and equity, covering everything from the CDC advisory on masks, to airline policies, to the importance of vaccinations across age groups.

  • On when people can expect to fly without a mask: "I hope that we get enough people vaccinated that at least on domestic flights, it would be a matter of months. The issue globally is a different story because we can do a very good job of getting the overwhelming majority of our population vaccinated in the United States. Yet you can have a raging infection in other parts of the world."
  • On media coverage of COVID-19: "I think in general, the mainstream media has served our audiences really quite well. I believe it's done a pretty accurate accounting of the facts. We have some fringe media that get involved in conspiracy theories and denials and false alternative facts and denials of reality that's sitting right in front of you. So I think that you don't have to divide the media into the standard classical media and then some of the fringe media."

Albert Bourla unpacked the vaccine manufacturing process, his view on patents, and when the public should expect to need a vaccine booster shot.

  • On the need for a COVID-19 booster shot: “The data that I see coming, they are supporting the notion that likely there will be a need for a booster somewhere between 8 and 12 months.”
  • On making a vaccine that can be stored in higher temperatures: "We are right now working on a new version of this vaccine that will be a ready-to-use vaccine, so you don't need to reconstitute it, you don't need to dilute it...This vaccine can be stored up to six months in normal refrigeration."

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top Segment with PhRMA president and CEO Stephen J. Ubl discussed the feat of testing and approving the COVID-19 vaccine on such an accelerated timeline.

  • "It took over two years during the SARS epidemic to get the first candidate vaccine into human trials. So it really is a remarkable feat for the industry to have developed essentially a new class of medicine and vaccines and therapeutics and to do it inside a calendar year."

Thank you PhRMA for sponsoring this conversation.