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Pfizer CEO says Omicron COVID vaccine will be ready by March

U.S. officials have held off on saying whether they believe a new Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine will be necessary, instead urging all to get boosters.

WASHINGTON — Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Monday that a COVID-19 vaccine that specifically targets the omicron variant will soon be ready. 

During an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box," Bourla said the vaccine "will be ready in March” and his company has already begun manufacturing doses. 

Pfizer's CEO acknowledged that he doesn't know whether the omicron-specific vaccine will be needed or how it'll be used, but if there's a need there will be doses ready once approved.

Moderna's CEO also said Monday their company is working on a booster for the fall that targets the omicron variant. 

The highly contagious omicron variant has sent new cases of COVID-19 to a record high, exploding to over 700,000 a day in the U.S. on average and obliterating the record set a year ago. The number of Americans in the hospital with the virus is running at about 110,000, just short of the peak of 124,000 last January.

At the same time, omicron appears to be causing milder illness than the delta variant.

Biden administration officials have held off on saying whether they believe a new Omicron-specific shot will be necessary. Instead, health officials have urged Americans to get a booster dose of the current Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to ensure they have maximum protection. Studies show a booster dose at least temporarily revs up virus-fighting antibodies to levels that offer the best chance at avoiding symptomatic infection, even from omicron. 

Boosters already were encouraged for all Americans 16 and older, but last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed an extra Pfizer shot for younger teens — those 12 to 15 — and strengthened its recommendation that 16- and 17-year-olds get it, too.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.