Pfizer is still engaged in talks to potentially bring ‘BNT162b2’, its Covid-19 vaccine with BioNTech, to India and the American drug giant feels it could play an “important” role in the country’s early response to the pandemic. However, its access here may be limited due to the company’s prior commitments and the various logistical hurdles posed by the vaccine’s niche storage requirements.
With the scale required in India, it is expected that there may eventually be multiple vaccines deployed in the country, according to the firm. “If successful, Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine certainly has the potential to be an important part of India’s early vaccine response to the pandemic in priority geographies and populations,” a Pfizer spokesperson told The Indian Express in an email.
The company’s phase 3 study has enrolled 43,358 participants, 42 per cent of whom come from diverse backgrounds, and it plans to make this data available to governments across the world for regulatory approvals. “Once we have a go-ahead from the government, we work with the regulatory authorities to determine the regulatory pathway required for deployment in India as well. The goal will be to ensure that an efficacious and safe vaccine is available for deployment in the country,” the spokesperson added.
At the same time, Pfizer is clear it would focus on countries it has already received committed orders from. While nations like the US, the UK and Japan have already inked agreements for a few hundred million doses, others like Brazil also reportedly lined up after the interim data was made public to include BNT162b2 in its national vaccination programme.
“If our vaccine candidate is successful, Pfizer would allocate the available doses across countries where we have fully executed supply agreements,” said the person, adding that Pfizer was still “committed” to advancing its dialogue with the government here.
India, meanwhile, is more focussed on the several vaccine candidates in its own testing pipeline. “We are banking on various vaccines, even those which people are not talking about. The one by Biological E… it’s a vaccine that may come after March, but it’s a very strong candidate,” said a senior government official aware of the Centre’s evolving strategy to vaccinate priority groups by July 2021. The official said that while another mRNA vaccine by Gennova is also being looked at closely, the government “will have to see” if this candidate also has similar niche cold storage requirements.
Based on current projections, Pfizer expects to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021. On the manufacturing front, the US drug maker doesn’t have immediate plans to scout for Indian capacity, given its priorities to ensure rapid manufacturing and deployment in the pandemic scenario.
“We are also mindful of the unique mRNA technology that is being utilised in this vaccine. Given these considerations, Pfizer has created two dedicated supply lines with established vaccine capabilities – one each in the US and Europe – to exclusively manufacture this vaccine for use across the world,” said the spokesperson.
“Once the pandemic supply phase is over and we enter a phase of regular supplies, Pfizer will evaluate all additional opportunities available,” it said.
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