Pfizer Taps Brazil Producer to Expand Vaccines in Latin America
(Bloomberg) -- Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE announced a deal with a Brazilian manufacturer to produce 100 million doses of their Covid-19 vaccine annually for Latin America.
Under the terms announced Thursday, the Brazilian pharmaceutical company Eurofarma Laboratorios SA will perform the so-called fill-and-finish process in which the vaccine is put into sterile vials.
Eurofarma will begin manufacturing finished doses at its facility in Sao Paulo in 2022. In the interim, Pfizer and BioNTech will help facilitate a technology transfer, on-site development and equipment installation. The vaccine substance will be sent to Brazil from facilities in the U.S., and the finished doses will be distributed by Eurofarma exclusively throughout Latin America.
With the deal, the Pfizer-BioNTech supply chain will span more than 20 production facilities across four continents. The vaccine partners said they tap contract manufacturers through “a rigorous selection process” that emphasizes a track record of quality and compliance, a highly trained workforce, available capacity and prior working relationship.
There will now be two facilities in the Southern Hemisphere using the messenger RNA technology underlying the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The first came about through a similar deal with the Biovac Institute, a company partially owned by the South African government.
The deals follow criticism about inequitable access to vaccines around the world. A lack of shots in some nations has hindered efforts to slow the pandemic, particularly as the more-transmissible delta variant spreads. Countries and regions with the highest incomes are getting vaccinated more than 20 times faster than those with the lowest, leaving many still highly vulnerable to infection.
Throughout Central America and the Caribbean, Covid cases are currently surging. Meanwhile, South America continues to face a high number of infections, even as hospitalizations decrease.
Lack of Facilities
The World Health Organization has suggested that insufficient manufacturing infrastructure is a part of the problem. Most of the Covid-19 vaccine production facilities are concentrated in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Global health experts at the WHO and beyond have called on the Pfizer-BioNTech partnership and its counterparts to help turn the tides.
The Eurofarma partnership will help provide fair and equitable access to the vaccine, Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said in a statement. He added that the company will continue to explore similar opportunities.
To date, Pfizer and BioNTech have shipped more than 1.3 billion doses to more than 120 countries and territories. The companies have partnered with Covax, a global program meant to equitably distribute vaccines, and are supplying the U.S. government with 500 million doses that it will donate and distribute internationally.
Building Out Production
Founded in 1972, Eurofarma has manufacturing plants across Latin America. The company produces brand-name prescription and generic drugs, over-the-counter medicines, veterinary treatments, and hospital products. It has partnered with Pfizer in the past on cardiovascular-focused work.
As Eurofarma gets its facility up and running to fill and finish the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid shot, the WHO and its Pan American Health Organization unit are simultaneously launching their own program to bring mRNA technology into the region.
More than 30 public and private companies have expressed interest in participating in the WHO’s mRNA technology transfer program to benefit production in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to Carissa Etienne, the director of the Pan American Health Organization. The group will host a series of meetings to promote coordination across countries and enlist partners.
“For regional production to be sustainable, production cannot be concentrated in one place,” she said.
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