Pfizer Sets Sights On Elimination Of Blinding Disease Trachoma By 2030

Photo: MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

 

 

Pfizer on Thursday said it would extend until 2030 a drug donation programme aimed at eliminating trachoma, an eye disease responsible for blinding or visually impairing nearly two million people worldwide.

The US pharmaceutical company co-founded the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) in 1998, and has already donated nearly a billion doses of the antibiotic Azithromycin, contributing to a 90 percent reduction in the number of people impacted.

“We are so close to getting where we need to be with the elimination of this disease that we couldn’t give up now,” Pfizer chief sustainability officer and senior vice president Caroline Roan told AFP.

The announcement was made in Kigali, Rwanda at the Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Trachoma is caused by infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, and is spread through personal contact (such as through hands, clothes or bedding), and by flies that have been in contact with discharge from the eyes or nose of an infected person, according to the World Health Organization.

Africa is the most affected continent, and women are blinded up to four times more often than men, likely as a result of greater contact with infants. Repeated infections draw the eyelashes inward where they rub against the eye, causing pain and permanent damage to the cornea, says the WHO.

Some 136 million people live in trachoma-endemic areas and are at risk.

The ITI had initially hoped to eliminate the disease by 2020, but is now setting its sights on 2030. Thanks to the progress already made, trachoma no longer represents a public health problem in 13 countries (including China, Morocco, Ghana and elsewhere).

Individual districts are assessed and if more than 5 percent of the children are infected, then the antibiotic is offered to the entire local population, once a year, for both treatment and prevention.

“Some of the campaigns will literally treat 10 million people in a week, and that really knocks down that infectious reservoir,” ITI director Paul Emerson told AFP.

The challenge today is to reach isolated populations, including nomadic people, as well as combining the drug with the promotion of hygiene measures such as frequent washing of the face in areas where water may be scarce.

Today, the disease persists in 44 countries.

“Conflicts are a big factor,” said Emerson. “In a perfect world, where there was no interruption in available funds, and there was no war, we probably could have eliminated trachoma by 2020.”

Of the new 2030 goal, Roan said: “We think it is realistic and ambitious.”

Pfizer Offers To Sell Medicines At Cost To Poorest Countries

(FILES) This file photo taken on November 23, 2020 shows a syringe and a bottle reading “Covid-19 Vaccine” next to the Pfizer company logo. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

 

 

 

US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer on Wednesday said it would sell its patented drugs on a not-for-profit basis to the world’s poorest countries, as part of a new initiative announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“The time is now to begin closing this gap” between people with access to the latest treatments and those going without, chief executive Albert Bourla told attendees at the exclusive Swiss mountain resort gathering.

“An Accord for a Healthier World” focuses on five areas: infectious diseases, cancer, inflammation, rare diseases and women’s health — where Pfizer currently holds 23 patents, including the likes of Comirnaty and Paxlovid, its Covid vaccine and oral treatment.

“This transformational commitment will increase access to Pfizer-patented medicines and vaccines available in the United States and the European Union to nearly 1.2 billion people,” Angela Hwang, group president of the Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group, told AFP.

Five countries: Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal and Uganda have committed to joining, with a further 40 countries — 27 low-income and 18 lower-middle-income — eligible to sign bilateral agreements to participate.

“Pfizer’s commitment sets a new standard, which we hope to see emulated by others,” Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said.

But he added that “additional investments and strengthening of Africa’s health systems and pharmaceutical regulators” would also be needed.

– Seven years behind –
Developing countries experience 70 percent of the world’s disease burden but receive only 15 percent of global health spending, leading to devastating outcomes.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, one child in 13 dies before their fifth birthday, compared to one in 199 in high-income countries.

Cancer-related mortality rates are also far higher in low and middle-income countries — causing more fatalities in Africa every year than malaria.

All this is set to a backdrop of limited access to the latest drugs.

Essential medicines and vaccines typically take four to seven years longer to reach the poorest countries, and supply chain issues and poorly resourced health systems make it difficult for patients to receive them once approved.

“The Covid-19 pandemic further highlighted the complexities of access to quality healthcare and the resulting inequities,” said Hwang.

“We know there are a number of hurdles that countries have to overcome to gain access to our medicines. That is why we have initially selected five pilot countries to identify and come up with operational solutions and then share those learnings with the remaining countries.”

– ‘Very good model’ –
Specifically, the focus will be on overcoming regulatory and procurement challenges in the countries, while ensuring adequate levels of supply from Pfizer’s side.

The “not-for-profit” price tag takes into account the cost to manufacture and transport of each product to an agreed upon port of entry, with Pfizer charging only manufacturing and minimum distribution costs.

If a country already has access to a product at a lower price tier, for example vaccines supplied by GAVI, a public-private global partnership, that lower price will be maintained.

Hwang acknowledged that even an at-cost approach could be challenging for the most cash-strapped countries, and “this is why we have reached out to financial institutions to brief them on the Accord and ask them to help support country level financing.”

Pfizer will also reach out to other stakeholders — including governments, multilateral organizations, NGOs and even other pharmaceuticals — to ask them to join the Accord.

It is also using funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance work on a vaccine against Group B Streptococcus (GBS), the leading cause of stillbirth and newborn mortality in low-income countries.

“This type of accord is a very good model, it’s going to help get medicines out,” Gates told the Davos conference, adding that “partnerships with companies like Pfizer have been key to the progress we have made” on efforts like vaccines.

Pfizer Eyes COVID-19 Vaccine For All Variants Before 2023

In this file photo, a healthcare worker prepares to administer a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a person at a drive-thru site in Tropical Park on December 16, 2021 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

 

A Covid-19 vaccine effective against multiple variants is possible before the end of 2022, the head of US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said Wednesday.

Chairman Albert Bourla said the firm was also working on producing a vaccine that could provide good protection for a whole year, meaning people would come back annually for boosters, as with influenza shots.

“I hope, clearly by autumn… that we could have a vaccine” that worked against not only the dominant Omicron but all known variants, he said.

“It is a possibility that we have it by then. It is not a certainty,” he told a media briefing organised by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) big pharma lobby group.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is one of the most effective against Covid-19.

Though, like other jabs, it has seen waning effectiveness against the now-dominant Omicron variant of the virus, it still offers strong protection against serious disease, hospitalisation and death.

IFPMA director general Thomas Cueni said the world had to learn to live with the virus that causes Covid-19 disease, saying: “We are beyond the time when you can eradicate SARS-CoV-2.”

Bourla said there was a risk of vaccine fatigue, predicting that few people who have so far declined the chance to be vaccinated would change their minds, and suggesting that fewer people would come back for fourth doses than came forward for a third, booster dose.

“What the world really needs is a vaccine that will last a year. I think this is what will become the optimal public health solution,” he said.

“It’s way more easy to be administered and have the population be compliant with that.

“It is very challenging, technically, to do it with this virus — but we are working on it.”

– IP waiver plan blasted –

The World Health Organization is aware of 153 Covid-19 vaccines that have been in clinical development — tested on humans — and 196 in pre-clinical development.

But so far, the UN health agency has only authorised eight vaccines and versions thereof: those made by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Janssen, Moderna, Sinovac, Sinopharm, Bharat Biotech and Novavax.

The IFPMA briefing condemned suggestions that intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines should be temporarily lifted during the pandemic, in a bid to increase production.

“I’m stunned that the proposed IP waiver is still debated while supplies are far outstripping demand,” said Cueni.

With more than a billion vaccine doses being produced every month, Eli Lilly chairman David Ricks called it “a solution looking for a problem”, while Bourla branded the idea “insane”.

In a later WHO press conference, the UN health agency’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said the vaccine supply situation had dramatically improved in recent months.

The problem, she said, was more one of logistics and getting doses into arms in countries, especially in Africa, where only 13 percent have been fully jabbed.

“We are able to now supply as many doses as countries want, on demand, to them. The issue now really is on delivery,” she said.

AFP

BioNTech To Ship Mobile COVID-19 Vaccine Labs To Africa

In this file photo taken on March 20, 2020 Dr. Nita Patel, Director of Antibody discovery and Vaccine development, lifts a vial with a potential coronavirus, COVID-19, vaccine at Novavax labs in Gaithersburg, Maryland one of the labs developing a vaccine for the coronavirus, COVID-19. PHOTO: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

 

Germany’s BioNTech, which together with Pfizer developed the first mRNA vaccine against the coronavirus, said Wednesday it plans to ship mobile vaccine production units to Africa.

“The question was, can we make the process compact enough to fit in a container,” the chief executive and co-founder of BioNTech, Ugur Sahin, told AFP as the company unveiled the new labs, dubbed “BioNTainers”.

BioNTech said it aims to establish the “first manufacturing facility in the African Union” in “mid-2022” and expects to ship the modular production units to Rwanda and/or Senegal.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall attended the Vaccine Equity for Africa meeting at BioNTech’s mRNA production site in Marburg, Germany, along with Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo and World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“The modular system opens up new perspectives for global vaccine equity,” Kagame said.

Tedros said that boosting local production was “essential”, particularly as more than 100 countries worldwide had failed to attain the vaccination rate of 70 percent that the WHO had been targeting for the middle of this year.

READ ALSO: IMF Chief Urges G20 To Move Faster On Debt Relief

Africa is the least-vaccinated continent in the world — more than two years after the start of the pandemic and more than a year after the roll-out of the first coronavirus vaccines, less than 12 percent of Africans have been fully vaccinated.

Earlier this month, South African biotech company Biologics announced it had produced the continent’s first coronavirus vaccine based on mRNA technology using the genetic code that another mRNA vaccine maker, Moderna, had made publicly available.

Sahin said BioNTech, which developed its vaccine with US pharma giant Pfizer, has sold tens of millions of the shot and was aiming to “instal production sites for our mRNA technology on every continent”.

 

– Meticulous production process –

South Africa could “potentially” join the list of recipients of the mobile labs, BioNTech said.

The 12 units in total each comprise two modules — one for the production of mRNA and the other for the vaccine serum — and local partners then take over the filling of the vials.

The manufacturing process is made up of some 50,000 steps, each of which had to be followed meticulously.

But the containers overcome this challenge by having “the process pre-validated” before they are installed, Sahin explained.

Normally, it takes around three years to build a new factory. But using the mobile units, the first doses will be ready after 12 months, Sahin said.

The containers could also be used to produce vaccines against malaria based on mRNA technology, were it to be authorised after clinical trials planned to begin this year.

BioNTech employees will operate the containers to begin with, while training local employees “to hand over the site in the mid- or long-term”, according to the statement.

The vaccine technology will be shared without the patents behind it being waived, as requested by a number of countries and NGOs.

“Patents aren’t the key. When we install the technology and hand it over to a partner, they will also get the license to operate it,” Sahin said, adding that BioNTech would assure the “responsible use.”

AFP

Pfizer Projects Over $50bn Vaccine, Therapeutic Sale In 2022

 

Pfizer Vaccine
This file photo taken on April 20, 2021, shows an empty vial of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine among empty vials of different other vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) and AstraZeneca at the vaccination centre in Rosenheim, southern Germany, amid the novel coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic. Christof STACHE / AFP

 

Pfizer forecast more than $50 billion in 2022 sales for its Covid-19 vaccine and therapeutic on Tuesday as the pharmaceutical giant reported a more than doubling of annual profits on strong sales of its innoculation.

Pfizer, whose vaccinee developed with German company BioNTech was the first approved in the United States to counter the deadly virus, sees slightly lower 2022 revenues for the vaccine compared with the just-finished year, but a big infusion of revenues from Paxlovid, the company’s pill for Covid-19.

Chief Executive Albert Bourla described 2021 as a “watershed year” for Pfizer, adding that the company’s efforts in the pandemic “have fundamentally changed our company forever.”

Still, shares fell Tuesday following the results, which lagged estimates in terms of fourth-quarter revenues.

Besides vaccines, sales were mixed across Pfizer’s other divisions. Revenues dipped for internal medicine and inflammation and immunology but rose for oncology, hospitals and rare disease.

Analysts have also projected higher 2022 profits compared with the company’s forecasts.

 Heavy interest in therapeutic

Pfizer reported annual profits of $22 billion, more than double the 2020 level. Annual revenues nearly doubled to $81.3 billion, with $36.8 billion from the Covid-19 vaccine.

The company projected 2022 revenues of between $98 and $102 billion.

The results are the latest to show how the coronavirus has transformed Pfizer, which a year ago had projected just $15 billion in Covid-19 vaccines sales in 2021 and ended up selling more than twice that amount after repeatedly lifting the forecast.

For 2022, Pfizer expects $32 billion in revenue from Covid-19 vaccines and $22 billion in revenues from Paxlovid.

Bourla said the company is currently working on a new vaccine candidate based on the Omicron variant of Covid-19, as well as a new “potential next-generation oral Covid-19 treatment.”

The company expects to produce 120 million treatment courses for Paxlovid, with six million in the first quarter and 30 million the first half of 2022.

Pfizer executives described heavy interest in Paxlovid, with ongoing contract talks with about 100 governments around the world. The treatment has so far been approved in about 40 countries.

Bourla said the sales for Paxlovid “could be way bigger” than current forecasts. The 2022 estimate of $22 billion is based on signed contracts and negotiations where there is essentially an agreement, he said.

However, Chief Financial Officer Frank D’Amelio cautioned that there was “less potential upside” to 2022 estimates for Covid-19 vaccine revenues, compared with 2021 “when the vaccine was newly available and few people had received any doses of the vaccine.”

Morningstar’s Damien Conover estimated that Covid-19-related products will account for $60 billion in revenues in 2022, but fall to close to $5 billion by 2025.

“We expect increased near-term utilization of Covid vaccines will reduce the demand for these vaccines and treatments over the long term,” Conover said in a note. “We view Pfizer as slightly overvalued, with the market likely extrapolating strong Covid vaccine and treatment sales too far into the future.”

Bourla said the company’s scientists “continue to monitor the Covid-19 virus and believe it is unlikely that it will be fully eradicated in the foreseeable future.”

“That said, we now have the tools — in the forms of vaccines and treatments — that we believe will help enable us to not only better manage the pandemic but also help countries move into the endemic phase,” he said.

Shares fell 2.8 percent to $51.70.

-AFP

Pfizer To Seek Green Light To Vaccinate Kids Five And Under

The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is prepared for administration at a vaccination clinic. Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

 

Pfizer and BioNTech will soon ask US regulators for emergency authorization for a Covid-19 vaccine for children aged five and under, US media reported Tuesday.

This is the last age group in the United States that is not yet eligible for coronavirus shots.

As early as Tuesday, the companies could seek emergency authorization for a two-dose vaccination regimen for children under five and as young as six months, The New York Times and other news outlets said.

The move comes as the Omicron variant wave is waning in the United States but parents are still grappling with school closures and concerns for their unvaccinated children.

New pediatric Covid hospitalizations hit a record high in the United States in December as the Omicron strain spread rapidly.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer’s Covid-19 booster shot for children as young as 12.

But vaccination rates among this age group are relatively low — less than 22 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As they seek the green light for children under five to receive two doses of the vaccine, Pfizer and BioNTech will also continue studies on a three-shot regimen, the Times said.

The FDA hopes to approve shots for young kids as early as late February. Data on a three-dose regimen would not be submitted until late March, the daily added.

The companies concluded last fall that low doses of the vaccine provided protection in children up to two years old but not in kids aged two to five, announcing in December they would add a third dose to their trials.

“We know that two doses isn’t enough, and we get that,” a source told The Washington Post.

“The idea is, let’s go ahead and start the review of two doses. If the data holds up in the submission, you could start kids on their primary baseline months earlier than if you don’t do anything until the third-dose data comes in.”

US Health Regulator Authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 Pill

America authorized the antiviral pill created by Pfizer for the treatment of COVID-19
This handout file photo provided on November 16, 2021, courtesy of Pfizer shows the making of its experimental Covid-19 antiviral pills, Paxlovid, in Freiburg, Germany.
Handout / Pfizer / AFP

 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized Pfizer’s Covid pill for high-risk people aged 12 and over, a major milestone in the pandemic that will allow millions to access the treatment.

“Today’s authorization introduces the first treatment for Covid-19 that is in the form of a pill that is taken orally — a major step forward in the fight against this global pandemic,” said FDA scientist Patrizia Cavazzoni.

Pfizer’s treatment, called Paxlovid, is a combination of two pills taken over five days that was shown in a clinical trial of 2,200 people to be safe and reduced the risk of hospitalizations and deaths among at-risk people by 88 percent.

In an unusual move, the FDA did not convene its customary panel of independent experts to review in depth data surrounding Pfizer’s pill ahead of authorization.

Pfizer’s treatment has previously been authorized in the European Union.

The US has already paid for 10 million courses.

The authorization comes as cases are surging across the United States, driven by Omicron, the most infectious variant seen to date.

The highly-mutated variant is better able to bypass immunity conferred by prior infection, and health authorities are urging the public to get boosted with mRNA vaccines in order to restore a higher degree of protection.

Unlike vaccines, the Covid pill does not target the ever-evolving spike protein of the coronavirus, which it uses to invade cells. It should in theory be more variant proof, and Pfizer has said preliminary studies have backed up that hypothesis.

Authorization is still awaited for another Covid pill, developed by Merck, which is also taken over five days and has been shown to reduce the same outcomes by 30 percent among high-risk people.

Independent experts voted in favor of that treatment by a narrow margin, but expressed concerns surrounding its safety, such as potential harm to fetuses and possible damage to DNA.

The two treatments work in different ways inside the body, and Pfizer’s pill is not thought to carry the same level of concerns.

Merck’s treatment has been greenlit by Britain and Denmark.

U.S. Donates 2.5 Million Doses Of Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccines To Nigeria

FILE PHOTO: Nigeria got its first doses of the vaccines one year after COVID-19 was confirmed in the country. PHOTO: Channels TV/Sodiq Adelakun.

 

The United States has announced the donation of 2.5 million Pfizer vaccine doses to Nigeria.

This was disclosed in a statement by the U.S Embassy on Thursday.

According to the statement, the vaccine doses arrived in Abuja this week and were received by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency and taken to cold storage in preparation for distribution.

The vaccines are planned to be distributed to over 3,000 health facilities across all 36 states and FCT-Abuja. The statement added that the vaccines in the next few weeks will be available across major locations for vaccination in the country.

“Over the next several weeks, the vaccines will be available at major markets, shopping malls, event centers, motor parks, airports, places of employment, and religious institutions as part of Nigeria’s mass vaccination campaign.”

The statement added that, “the United States has donated more than 13.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in partnership with COVAX, or bilaterally to Nigeria.

“Additionally, the United States has provided more than $119 million in COVID-19 related health assistance.”

The COVID-19 related health assistance according to the U.S Embassy includes a 40-bed mobile field hospital, ventilators, and related training for 88 hospitals, personal protective equipment, technical assistance for vaccine readiness, risk communication, and demand generation for vaccines.

Others include “conducting an epidemiological COVID-19 detection and vaccine hesitancy survey, setting up electronic record systems, rapid response teams, training for over 200,000 military and civilian personnel on COVID-19 control measures, and technology for virtual training.”

In addition, the United States leveraged the PEPFAR-supported National Integrated Specimen Referral Network (NiSRN) and laboratory investments to support the expansion of the NCDC (153) molecular laboratory network nationwide.

The statement explained that the United States is committed to helping end the pandemic in Nigeria and everywhere, also committed to donating more than one billion vaccine doses around the world, by early 2022.

This includes African countries primarily through the COVAX initiative.  Improving equitable distribution remains a priority for the United States to prevent the emergence of new variants that threaten populations everywhere.

Pfizer/Biontech Says Three Doses ‘Effective’ Against Omicron

A health worker shows a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 at the Pascual Guerrero Olympic stadium, in Cali, Colombia, on April 26, 2021. Luis ROBAYO / AFP

 

The coronavirus vaccine developed jointly by BioNTech and Pfizer is “still effective” against the Omicron variant of the virus after three doses, the companies said in a statement on Wednesday.

A laboratory study by its makers found the vaccine “is still effective in preventing Covid-19, also against Omicron, if it has been administered three times”, but warned that “the Omicron variant is probably not sufficiently neutralised after two doses”.

According to the study “a third dose provides a similar level of neutralising antibodies to Omicron as is observed after two doses” for other variants.

Pfizer and BioNTech also said that an Omicron-specific version of the anti-coronavirus vaccine, currently in development by BioNTech, would be available by March.

“Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the Omicron strain, it’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine,” Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla said in a statement.

The new study comes after dozens of nations re-imposed border restrictions in response to the spread of the new virus variant and raised the possibility of a return of economically punishing lockdowns.

The detection of the first Omicron cases two weeks ago coincided with jumping infection numbers across the world, and the variant added fuel to concerns about a global Covid resurgence.

Omicron has so far been found in 57 countries, the WHO said. No deaths have yet been associated with the variant.

Scientists from the World Health Organization and the United States government told AFP this week the Omicron variant appeared to be no worse than other coronavirus strains but said more research was still necessary.

Senegal Detects First Case Of Omicron Variant

File photo: A healthcare worker fills a syringe with Covid-19 vaccine at a community vaccination event. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

 

A first case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been reported in Senegal, in a visitor who was leaving the country after an international meeting in capital Dakar, a research institute said.

The IRESSEF health body said late Saturday that the 58-year-old patient arrived in Senegal by air from another West African country on November 22.

He had been vaccinated earlier this year with the AstraZeneca and Pfizer shots and had no symptoms by Saturday.

READ ALSO: UK Adds Nigeria To Red List Over Omicron Fears

Although the man has now been quarantined in a medical centre, he stayed at a Dakar hotel and took part in an event with 300 people from different countries on November 24-25.

Senegal has recorded more than 74,000 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

Launched in February, the country’s vaccination campaign has made slow progress, with 1.3 million people inoculated out of a total 17 million population.

AFP

Pfizer, BioNTech And Moderna Make $65,000 Every Minute – Report

This file photo taken on April 20, 2021, shows an empty vial of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine among empty vials of different other vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) and AstraZeneca at the vaccination center in Rosenheim, southern Germany, amid the novel coronavirus
Christof STACHE / AFP

 

 

Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna are making combined profits of $65,000 every minute from their highly successful Covid-19 vaccines while the world’s poorest countries remain largely unvaccinated, according to a new analysis.

The companies have sold the vast majority of their doses to rich countries, leaving low-income nations in the lurch, said the People’s Vaccine Alliance (PVA), a coalition campaigning for wider access to Covid vaccines, which based its calculations on the firms’ own earning reports.

The Alliance estimates that the trio will make pre-tax profits of $34 billion this year between them, which works out to over $1,000 a second, $65,000 a minute or $93.5 million a day.

“It is obscene that just a few companies are making millions of dollars in profit every single hour, while just two percent of people in low-income countries have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus,” Maaza Seyoum of the African Alliance and People’s Vaccine Alliance Africa said.

“Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna have used their monopolies to prioritise the most profitable contracts with the richest governments, leaving low-income countries out in the cold.”

Pfizer and BioNTech have delivered less than one percent of their total supplies to low-income countries while Moderna has delivered just 0.2 percent, the PVA said.

Currently, 98 percent of people in low-income countries have not been fully vaccinated.

The three companies’ actions are in contrast to AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, which provided their vaccines on a not-for-profit basis, though both have announced they foresee ending this arrangement in the future as the pandemic winds down.

PVA said that despite receiving public funding of more than $8 billion, Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna have refused calls to transfer vaccine technology to producers in low- and middle-income countries via the World Health Organization, “a move that could increase global supply, drive down prices and save millions of lives.”

“In Moderna’s case, this is despite explicit pressure from the White House and requests from the WHO that the company collaborate in and help accelerate its plan to replicate the Moderna vaccine for wider production at its mRNA hub in South Africa,” the group said.

While Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has dismissed technology transfer as “dangerous nonsense,” the WHO’s decision to grant emergency use approval to the Indian-developed Covaxin earlier this month proves that developing countries have the capacity and expertise, PVA added.

PVA, whose 80 members include the African Alliance, Global Justice Now, Oxfam, and UNAIDS, is calling for pharmaceutical corporations to immediately suspend intellectual property rights for COVID vaccines by agreeing to a proposed waiver of the World Trade Organisation’s TRIPS agreement.

More than 100 nations, including the United States, back that move, but it is being blocked by rich countries including the UK and Germany.

-AFP

Court Suspends Biden Vaccine Mandate For Businesses

The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is prepared for administration at a vaccination clinic. Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

 

A US federal appeals court Saturday halted a vaccine mandate by President Joe Biden’s administration that is intended to push millions of workers at businesses with more than 100 employees into getting Covid-19 shots.

The New Orleans-based US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said that because petitioners “give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate, the Mandate is hereby STAYED pending further action by this court.”

The traditionally conservative court ordered the government to reply to the motion for a permanent injunction by 5:00 pm Monday.

Petitioners include five strongly Republican US states — Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, Utah and Mississippi — as well as several private companies and religious groups.

If upheld, the suspension would represent a stunning setback to one of Biden’s most far-reaching and high-impact efforts to secure the widespread immunization of American workers ahead of a winter when a resurgence of Covid-19 is expected.

 ‘Abuse of Authority’ 

Nurse Eunice Lee prepares to give an injection of the Covid-19 vaccine to a health care worker at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, California on December 16, 2020. (Photo by Brian van der Brug / POOL / AFP)

 

There was no immediate reaction from the Biden administration.

But Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a conservative Republican who has opposed mask and vaccine mandates, applauded the decision in a post on Twitter.

“Emergency hearings will take place soon,” he said. “We will have our day in court to strike down Biden’s unconstitutional abuse of authority.”

Vaccine mandates have a long history in the US, but have generally been issued by cities or states.

At issue here is the constitutionality of a US president issuing such a sweeping nationwide mandate.

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, among those filing suit to block the Biden mandate, said Saturday on CNN that the president had exceeded his authority.

“The fight is not over,” Paxton tweeted earlier, “and I will never stop resisting this Admin’s unconstitutional overreach!”

 Where mandates worked 

Around 58 percent of the total US population was fully vaccinated as of early November, up from half in August as mandates began to be announced.

Biden on Thursday had set a January 4 deadline for employees in large companies to be fully vaccinated — a rule the administration said would affect more than two-thirds of the country’s workforce.

“Vaccination is the single best pathway out of this pandemic,” he said.

“Businesses have more power than ever before to accelerate our path out of this pandemic, save lives, and protect our economic recovery.”

Mandates announced earlier by several major employers have had impressive results.

They included United Airlines, which told its 67,000 US-based staff to get the jab or face termination.

By Thursday, 2,000 had sought medical or religious exemptions and all but a handful of the rest had complied.

Tyson Foods, one of the biggest meatpacking companies in the world, announced in August that all of its 120,000 staff would need to be vaccinated.

Around 96 percent have fallen into line, the New York Times reported.

The US military, which has told all serving personnel they must be vaccinated — or face consequences — reports rates above 95 percent in all services.

AFP