Pfizer CEO Says Governments Haven’t Learned Lessons of Covid-19 Pandemic

DAVOS, Switzerland—Three years into the Covid-19 pandemic, the world is in some ways unprepared for the next global health crisis,

Pfizer Inc.

Chief Executive

Albert Bourla

said Wednesday.

Governments haven’t made changes to speed responses to an outbreak, and in some cases have undertaken regulatory moves that could hurt future drug development and innovation, Mr. Bourla told The Wall Street Journal at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about China’s reopening, breakthroughs in vaccines and the likelihood of a renaissance in biotech research and products.

“What was the big lesson from Covid? It was that thank god, there was a thriving life-sciences industry that was predominantly fueled privately, but also supplemented by academia,” Mr. Bourla said. “That is what saved us.”

He added: “It’s not thank god, the WHO was there. It’s not thank god, the CDC was there,” he said, referring to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Representatives from the WHO and CDC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Bourla criticized some aspects of the climate, health and spending legislation dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act, which has a measure meant to blunt drug prices—and said regulatory agencies worldwide had become more strict after the pandemic. “There’s a huge effort to go back to the past,” he said. “They’re trying to be more conservative than ever.”

The Covid-19 virus is likely here to stay, and Pfizer is working to develop a Covid-19 vaccine that could provide protection for a year, he said. Mr. Bourla said the company is also looking to better understand long Covid and the complications that result after infection.

Beyond Covid-19, Pfizer is embarking on an ambitious period of new drug rollouts over the next 18 months and is open to acquiring companies that could help propel its growth, Mr. Bourla said. The drugmaker is unlikely to buy a pharmaceutical company of Pfizer’s size, but is instead interested in smaller acquisitions of “breakthrough” science and medicines, he said.

“Yes, we are in the market to buy things,” he said. “We are looking to do a lot of deals.”

Over the next decade, Mr. Bourla also predicted that advancements in biology, combined with artificial intelligence and improved technology, could lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

“The next 10 years, we will see a scientific renaissance,” he said.

Write to Chip Cutter at

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