US coronavirus drugmaker Pfizer aims to find COVID-19 vaccine by last quarter of 2020

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US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer, one of the largest in world, is hoping to find its final coronavirus vaccine candidate by the last quarter of this year, a senior executive told Al Arabiya English.

Pharmaceutical companies have been dominating headlines recently as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, with drug makers collaborating in a global race to find treatments and a vaccine. Pfizer is no different, having started human trials of its own experimental coronavirus vaccine last month.

The firm is currently working with German-based firm BioNTech to develop its own vaccine. The virus has sped up the traditionally slow development of medications, with drugs being brought to trial at breakneck speeds.

“We have the potential to supply millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020, subject to technical success and regulatory approvals, then [we have to] rapidly scale up to produce hundreds of millions of doses in 2021,” Sinan Atlig, regional president for Pfizer Biopharma in Africa and the Middle East told Al Arabiya on Thursday.

“We are moving at a rapid pace and hope to obtain sufficient safety and efficacy data by the last quarter of the year in order to select our final vaccine candidate,” he said.

The unprecedented global effort to find medical solutions to the coronavirus pandemic has companies scrambling to conduct research quickly.

Pfizer aims to “leave no stone unturned” in its own work on COVID-19, Atlig said.

“We recognize that as a global scientific community we are strongest together,” he said. “Sharing tools, insights and data in real time is critical to our ability to act with urgency. Whilst it is difficult to speculate what will happen in the future with this virus, ultimately, we are confident that science will win.”

Experts and policy makers across the world have generally agreed that the development of an effective vaccine to coronavirus will be the only way to stop the virus and stem the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Atlig agreed, stating that, “Vaccines are the only long-term solution to ending this epidemic.”

GCC, Egypt key markets for pharma

Pfizer views Egypt and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries as key markets, with increasing importance for the company, Atlig added.

“We are proud that our medications reached around 1.8 million people and patients in the GCC countries in 2019. [The] GCC has long been a core region in Pfizer’s wider Africa and Middle East (AfME) network for more than 40 years. GCC is home to our AfME headquarters based in Dubai and to our largest market in AfME,” Atlig said.

In particular, Atlig drew attention to the helpful regulatory environment in the GCC, which has allowed products to be available and accessible to patients faster than elsewhere.

“Recently in UAE, we were able to launch products in just 3 months after the first global launch in US or EU and in six months in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “We truly appreciate the decisiveness of local authorities to facilitate this speed. This is helping us to prioritize GCC countries internally, which ultimately helps the patients in GCC reach Pfizer products as fast as they can.”

Atlig noted that Egypt was a key priority, with plans in place to continue supporting the country’s Vision 2030 plan “through improving access to innovative medicines, and vaccines, championing medical education and preventative care, as well as working tirelessly to ease the burden of pressing healthcare issues,” he said.

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