Albert Bourla, Chief Executive Officer of Pfizer Incorporated

Why high-income countries reserve most of COVID-19 Vaccine doses: Pfizer

*Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla in a letter has disclosed reasons low-and middle-income countries of the world did not order the company’s COVID-19 Vaccine shots

*Joe Biden administration backs possible waiver of patent rights to ensure global access to vaccines

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

Pfizer Incorporated has revealed that the low-and middle-income countries in the world initially, had opted not to order the company’s COVID-19 shots while the rich-countries were making moves to secure doses in millions.

Albert Bourla, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company, stated this said in a letter addressed to Pfizer employees, and posted online after United States President Joe Biden’s administration said it supported waiving patents to expand global access to Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccines, says agency report.

Bourla said: “We reached out to all nations asking them to place orders so we could allocate doses for them.”

COVID-19 vaccination

“In reality, the high-income countries reserved most of the doses. I became personally concerned with that, and I reached out to many heads of middle/low-income countries by letter, phone, and even text to urge them to reserve doses because the supply was limited.”

Pfizer CEO said that most low-and middle-income countries in developing countries and emerging markets he contacted at the time in 2020 decided to place orders with other vaccine makers, either because the underlying technology used in Pfizer’s shot was still untested, or there were local production options available.

Some countries did not ever approve the vaccine, which Pfizer developed with its German partner BioNTech SE, Bourla noted.

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the country would support efforts at reaching a deal on waiving intellectual-property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, in a reversal of longstanding policy.

ConsumerConnect gathered the proponents of the move have said the measure could expand access, whereas critics say there is no current capacity to begin producing cheaper versions of vaccines like the one made by Pfizer.

Bourla, however, in a letter responding to the public debate over the proposal, said that Pfizer and BioNTech use a tiered pricing model for their vaccine.

According to him, middle-income countries are asked to pay half what the highest-income countries do, while low-income countries are offered the shot at cost.

ConsumerConnect, however, gathered most of the developing countries and emerging markets in this category of vaccine users rather practically only depend on the World Health Organisation-backed COVAX facility for their vaccine supplies that are reportedly for free.

Report also noted that such tiered pricing was pioneered by Gilead Sciences Incorporated as it commercialised its HIV drugs.

Pfizer and BioNtech are on track to deliver three billion doses this year to more than 116 countries, Bourla said, and that the 450 million doses delivered to date have been heavily weighted toward higher-income countries that pay the most.

In the US, the two-dose regimen is priced at $39, report stated.

Yet, Bourla expects 40 percent of COVID-19 doses, or more than 1 billion, will go to middle- and low-income countries in 2021.

He said: “We expect the supply balance to weigh in their favor in the second half of 2021,” adding, “and to have virtually enough supply for all in 2022.”

The Pfizer CEO added the Pfizer-BioNTech partnership would likely be able to deliver four billion doses next year.

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