Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said its COVID-19 vaccine could be given to people in the US before the end of the year as the United Nations’ agency, the World Health Organization (WHO), reported a record one-day rise in the number of new coronavirus infections, with 307,930 cases of COVID-19 detected.
Bourla told CBS‘ Face the Nation’ that the necessary data from its stage three trial of the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech, of Germany, should be with the US Food and Drug Administration by the end of October.
If the FDA approves the vaccine as safe and effective, Pfizer is prepared to distribute “hundreds of thousands of doses,” he said. In July, the Trump administration announced it would pay Pfizer and BioNTech US$1.95 billion to produce and deliver 100 million doses of their vaccine if it is approved.
Bourla said Pfizer has invested US$1.5 billion for the development of the potential vaccine and said if the vaccine failed to work it would be financially “painful” for the company.
“At the end of the day, it’s only money. But that will not break the company, although it’s going to be painful,” Bourla said.
Pfizer and BioNTech’s experimental vaccine contains genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA, which scientists hope provokes the immune system to fight the virus.
Pfizer is one of three companies currently in late-stage testing for a vaccine. The other two are Moderna and AstraZeneca, which announced on Saturday, it would resume its trial after temporarily pausing it after a female volunteer suffered a severe reaction.
On Saturday, Pfizer submitted a proposal to the FDA to expand its late-stage trial to include up to 44,000 participants, a significant increase from its previous target of 30,000.
If approved the vaccine will be distributed in four phases, with health-care workers, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions getting priority. Essential workers, school teachers and people in homeless shelters and in prisons would be next on the list, followed by children and young adults.
Outside of the US, Sinopharm subsidiary China National Biotec Group has injected hundreds of thousands of people with two of its COVID-19 vaccine candidates under an emergency approval from Beijing issued in July, the company said this week. Sinovac has given its vaccine dose to around 3,000 of its employees and their family members, including the company’s CEO. All three candidates are still in phase 3 testing.
The Pfizer CEO’s positive comments came before the WHO reported a record one-day rise in the number of new coronavirus infections, with the biggest increase in infections reported in India, the US and Brazil. The previous one-day record for new cases was on 6 September when the WHO reported 306,857 new infections.
India last week reported nearly two million COVID-19 cases in August – the highest monthly tally in the world since the coronavirus pandemic began.