Pfizer The chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla told CNBC on Monday that he believed the world could “see light at the end of the tunnel” after the US pharmaceutical company announced its coronavirus vaccine more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 for those who have had no signs of previous infection.
More than 50 million coronavirus infections have been registered worldwide since the virus emerged in China in late December Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. At least 1,257,747 people have died. Almost a fifth of all infections and deaths worldwide are in the United States. The race to develop a safe and effective vaccine was closely watched as companies accelerated a process that typically takes years.
“It’s a great day for science. It’s a great day for humanity that you find your vaccine is 90% effective. That’s overwhelming,” Bourla said in an interview with CNBC Meg Tirrell on “Squawk Box.” “You understand that the hopes of billions of people and millions of businesses and hundreds of governments have been felt on our shoulders. Now … I think we can see light at the end of the tunnel.”
BioNTech and Pfizer’s late-stage study will continue after the positive interim analysis, with the hope that it will be completed by the end of the month, Bourla said. Companies must apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency approval. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner, told CNBC that the vaccine could be available in limited quantities by the end of December and in large quantities by the third quarter of 2021.
Up to 50 million doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine are expected to be manufactured this year and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021. The vaccine requires two doses per person. In July the company reached an almost $ 2 billion agreement with the US government 100 million cans to be delivered.
“Given the effectiveness of this vaccine and the fact that the demand will be much higher than anything we can produce, we are also currently looking into whether there are other ways we can even further increase production capacity,” said Bourla.
Bourla noted the timing of Monday’s efficacy news that is coming as the US continues to set new records for daily cases and some European countries put partial bans in response to rising infections. “There’s no time to waste here,” he said.
Bourla also responded to questions at the time of the announcement less than a week after the US presidential election. The Pfizer CEO said the election was always an artificial deadline and the dates would be ready when it was ready.
president Donald Trumpwho refused to allow the election after the Democrat Joe Biden was predicted as the winner on Saturday and on Monday morning via the “GREAT NEWS!” about the vaccine and the stock market surge. President-elect Biden also called it “good news”.
Bourla said he had been cautiously optimistic throughout the development process as to whether Pfizer’s vaccine was safe and effective. That’s because vaccines for other diseases “sometimes fail in phase three,” he said, despite positive evidence from phase 1 and phase 2 trials.
“I am very happy, but at the same time I sometimes have tears in my eyes when I realize that this is the end of nine months, day and night work by so many people and how many people, billions, have invested hopes”, said he. “I never thought it would be 90% effective,” added Bourla, who has been with Pfizer for over 25 years. He became CEO in January 2019.
There have been some public concerns about taking a Covid-19 vaccine, but both drug manufacturers and regulators have taken steps to alleviate those concerns. In September, Pfizer and other companies developed a vaccine like Johnson & Johnson and Moderna made a promise show their commitment to safety and scientific principles.
Bourla told CNBC that he wants to be among the first to take Pfizer’s vaccine, to show his confidence should it get regulatory approval. However, there he admitted ethical considerations. “If we only have a limited number of doses, for example, I don’t know if the government would recommend people my age … or if the ability to work will be among the first to receive the vaccine, so I want to respect that.” said Bourla, who is in his late fifties.
He also thanked the more than 40,000 test takers for volunteering, despite all the uncertainty. “I think the world owes them a lot of time,” he said.
“I believe this is probably the most significant medical advance in the past 100 years, given the public health implications it will have [and] World economy, “he said.