Pfizer first in West to produce Covid-19 vaccine

Hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses have already been produced, with over a billion on the way if clinical trials prove successful.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

American drug giant Pfizer has begun manufacturing its Covid-19 vaccine in Belgium, based on its belief that the medicine, currently in clinical trials, will prove safe and effective against the deadly virus, the UK’s Daily Mail reported on Sunday.

Several hundred thousand vials have already been produced, and the company said that by the end of the year it could have 100 million doses ready. With Pfizer’s global presence, it could have 1.3 billion doses manufactured in 2021, putting a huge dent in the pandemic’s spread.

In an interview with the British paper, Pfizer UK head Ben Osborn said, “It was great to see the first vial coming off the manufacturing line. It just brought a tremendous smile to my face to see all of this work actually result in a product.”

The multi-national pharmaceutical company is taking a calculated risk in starting up a production line before final results are in for the 44,000 people testing its vaccine, which it developed in conjunction with Germany’s BioNTech.

CEO Albert Bourla posted a cautiously optimistic, open letter on the company’s website Friday regarding the drug’s progress.

“We may know whether or not our vaccine is effective by the end of October,” he wrote.

Since the American Food and Drug Administration requires “two months of safety data … following the final dose of the vaccine” before granting initial Emergency Authorization Use of the drug, he then estimated that the company could apply for this permission in late November.

“I cannot think of a breakthrough that would be more meaningful to a greater number of people than an effective and safe COVID-19 vaccine,” he added.

Pfizer’s vaccine is a two-shot dose, as are those of most of the other companies who are racing it to develop vaccines. These include American rival Moderna and Britain’s Oxford University-AstraZeneca partnership, which are also in third-stage clinical trials.

Johnson & Johnson is testing both a single and double injection vaccine.

The advantage of a single injection is that it would make logistics of a mass vaccination program much easier. It is also much less expensive. The question is whether it would adequately protect the population.

By way of background, the DTaP vaccine (against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) is given five times over the course of several years to children, while others, such as the Hepatitis A and chicken pox vaccines, are given twice.

Tens of thousands of volunteers from all over the world are participating in the final stage of testing the various Western Covid-19 vaccine candidates.

Meanwhile, Chinese drug companies have developed five of their own drugs that are in clinical trials, with over 350,000 citizens already receiving inoculations in the government’s Emergency Authorization Use program for those at high risk.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week the approval of a second locally made vaccine that will start a mass trial in the near future.