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Low- and middle-income nations, Covax, WHO yet to place advance orders: Pfizer

MUMBAI :

Several low- and middle-income countries, as well as the Covax facility by GAVI and the World Health Organization, are yet to place advance orders to procure Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine for next year, a move that could allow companies to send subsidized vaccine doses to these countries, said Albert Bourla, chief executive officer of Pfizer earlier this week.

The company remains on track to produce 3 billion doses this year, out of which 1 billion doses will go to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), Bourla told investors during the company’s earnings call.

“We have a big number of countries that are negotiating with us. However, again, I will raise the concern that I had raised in August last year when most of the negotiation for doses in the next year are coming from high-income countries and some middle-income countries,” said Bourla.

Orders are not coming in from LMICs, though the company is producing enough doses, he said.

“I think we are producing enough, but for the low- and middle-income countries to receive not-for-profit, with a very severely discounted price for the middle-income countries, they need to place orders. That’s including Covax and WHO and all of them,” Bourla said.

Companies such as Pfizer, Moderna and J&J have been criticized for not sending their doses to LMICs and also not sharing their vaccine technology with LMICs. However, Bourla’s comments indicate that GAVI/WHO, which took the responsibility of procuring of vaccine doses for LMICs, are not placing orders. GAVI is waiting for Pfizer to honour its commitment to the Covax facility, it told Mint.

“As shown in our supply forecast, we will access 740 million available Pfizer doses for 2021-2022. We have already delivered 109 million Pfizer doses and intend to continue delivering more throughout this year and in 2022. We look forward to seeing Pfizer honouring their commitment to Covax and the governments that have facilitated deals for Covax,” a spokesperson for the Covax facility told Mint.

Pfizer will produce 4 billion doses and has secured contracts for 1.7 billion doses. However, most of these orders are coming from high and upper middle class countries.

The company has clocked $13 billion in revenues by selling its covid-19 vaccines mostly to high income countries. This week, its vaccine received approval from the US Center for Disease Control and the US Food and Drug Administration to vaccinate 5 to 11 year olds.

India is also one of the countries that is in negotiation with Pfizer to get its mRNA doses into the country. However, despite the Indian government announcing regulatory flexibility for these companies, they have not delivered any doses to India, though Pfizer said it has delivered its vaccines to more than 152 countries.

In the global south, there is a renewed effort to rope in firms that can manufacture the mRNA vaccines for low- and middle-income counties.

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