Pfizer is disappointed to hear of the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary episode of 10th December 2021: “Vaccine Wars: Truth About Pfizer”.
The Dispatches documentary was being advertised before Pfizer itself was sent a list of areas to respond to with a very short window to reply.
We are concerned that unbalanced reporting will only serve to undermine the UK’s vaccination efforts at a time of much public concern. We have a number of concerns around specific accusations made in the approach to Pfizer, outlined below.
The estimated cost of making the vaccine
As the co-developer and manufacturer of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine (BNT162b2), we can confirm the manufacturing estimate of 76p is grossly inaccurate and meaningless.
The true cost of bringing this mRNA vaccine to patients includes ongoing large scale clinical studies and pharmacovigilance, continued and increased manufacturing efforts including process improvements, and global distribution and supply which have clearly not been considered in the estimate the producers sought.
Likewise, to position this as a ‘charge’ to the NHS is not accurate; our COVID-19 vaccine has been centrally procured by the UK Government as part of the country's efforts to control the devastating impact of the pandemic.
Accusations on profiteering must be viewed within the scale of production we are witnessing. For the first time in living memory, humanity requires billions of vaccine doses at the same time and we are striving to deliver what we can, as fast as we can. We remain on track to produce 3 billion doses this year. To put that into context, Pfizer is one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers and prior to the pandemic, our annual output for all vaccines was 200 million doses per year. This is the biggest scale up in Pfizer’s history.
Pfizer-BioNTech have been transparent about the tiered pricing structure in place for high, middle, and low/lower-middle-income countries. High-income countries pay about the cost of a takeaway meal; low- and lower-middle-income countries pay a not-for-profit price.
Worldwide distribution of the vaccine
As of 29th November 2021, globally we have delivered 2.2 billion vaccines to 162 countries and territories in every region of the world. The companies have delivered more than 783 million doses to 94 low- and middle-income countries – more than double the number cited by the programme developers.
We have pledged to provide 2 billion doses of our COVID-19 vaccine to low/lower- and middle-income countries in 2021 and 2022, 1 billion doses each year. This is via multiple supply pathways including direct agreements, government donation programmes, humanitarian donation programmes and through an agreement with COVAX. It would be inaccurate to portray COVAX as the only route by which the vaccine reaches the poorest countries in the world.
We recognise and are concerned by the relative lower pace with which vaccines ended up reaching low-income countries. However, it is important to also acknowledge that approximately two thirds of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty are in the middle-income countries. Lower-middle-income and upper-middle-income countries are currently home to 75% of the world’s population and 62% of the world’s poor.
We have remained open about the challenges associated with managing this global vaccination effort.
Manufacturing this vaccine involves the use of over 280 materials, from 86 suppliers in 19 different countries. If any one of the 280 different components is not provided, we cannot manufacture or release the vaccine. With only two mRNA vaccines in the market, for the first time ever, there is not an abundance of known and experienced facilities in the world able to perform the critical steps needed to manufacture mRNA vaccines and the inputs to produce those vaccines at a large scale. To date, Pfizer and BioNTech have nine operational facilities supporting the COVID-19 vaccine global supply chain with two more joining this year as well as more than 20 contract manufacturers across four continents.
Distributing these types of products rapidly and at national scale has no precedent in modern public health, and close coordination across all stakeholders is critical for ensuring the success of vaccination campaigns. Holding manufacturers solely accountable on a supply number alone does not give an accurate account of vaccination reality. As we work to ensure equitable distribution, and countries become better prepared to receive, distribute, and administer the vaccine, we’ve seen the supply balance to weigh in favour of low/lower-middle income countries in the second half of 2021.
Misleading claims about rival vaccines
The production team has highlighted a presentation given in Canada which we believe has been wrongly attributed to Pfizer.
Following the authorisation in Canada of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (9th December, 2020), Pfizer received numerous requests from Canadian health professionals seeking support for education. To address this need, Pfizer provided funds to a third-party agency working with an external independent scientific committee to create an educational programme, independent of Pfizer. The speakers and presenters had complete editorial control of the content being presented. A third-party agency was engaged to develop and execute the programme, working with an external independent scientific committee. Reviewers of the programme were also independent from Pfizer. Pfizer did not provide presentation materials for this event and did not edit or influence the presentations. Some presenters and reviewers have acted as advisors to Pfizer in the past which, as per regulations in Canada, would have been disclosed by the speakers delivering the programme.
We refute any suggestion that Pfizer has sought to undermine others’ scientific endeavours. Our priority has always been getting high-quality, well-tolerated and effective vaccines to patients all over the world as quickly as possible and to help put an end to this deadly pandemic.
We are immensely proud of our colleagues across the globe who continue to show immense dedication, sacrifice, cooperation, and commitment to meet the unheard-of goal of producing billions of vaccine doses. Pfizer continues to invest in the COVID-19 programme including upgrades to the manufacturing process, continued research into alternative formulations of the existing vaccine and into variants of concern and the development of antiviral treatments, subject to regulatory approval.
A full and detailed response letter was shared with Channel 4; for any additional information, members of the media can contact the Press Office team.
Email: [email protected]
PP-CMR-GBR-0167 / December 2021