WASHINGTON — Pfizer and BioNTech are partnering with a Brazilian biopharmaceutical company to begin producing doses of their COVID-19 vaccine exclusively for distribution within Latin America, significantly boosting vaccine access in a region that has struggled to secure supply, the company said last week.
The partnership with Eurofarma Laboratórios SA could produce more than 100 million doses each year for use across the region once they are “at full operational capacity,” a Pfizer spokesperson said.
Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, officially named Comirnaty, was the first to receive full use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week.
Transferring the technology and expertise behind the vaccine’s manufacture, as well as the installation of equipment to Eurofarma’s facility in Sao Paulo will begin immediately, and “the manufacturing of finished doses will commence in 2022,” Pfizer said in a news release.
Carlos Murillo, Pfizer’s Latin America president, told McClatchy by email that the company’s partnership with Eurofarma is part of the company’s strategy to “better support the global needs for the vaccine.”
“These doses will be distributed from Eurofarma’s facility exclusively to Latin American countries with existing and future bilateral agreements with Pfizer-BioNTech,” Murillo said.
Pfizer and BioNTech currently have bilateral agreements with 13 countries in the region — Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.
Murillo said the financial terms of the deal “remain confidential,” but noted that the company’s COVID-19 vaccine contracts have deployed a scaled pricing structure.
“High- and middle-income countries will pay more than low-income countries, but at a value that is significantly discounted from our normal benchmarks, during the pandemic,” he said. “Low and lower middle-income countries will pay a not-for-profit price.”
The doses will use drug substances formulated in the United States.
“Our new collaboration with Eurofarma expands our global supply chain network to another region — helping us continue to provide fair and equitable access to our COVID-19 vaccine,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said. “We will continue to explore and pursue opportunities such as this to help ensure that vaccines are available to all who are in need.”
“At such a difficult time as this one, being able to share this news fills us with pride and hope,” Eurofarma’s president, Maurízio Billi, said. “We are making available our best resources in terms of industrial capacity, technology and quality to this project.”
The new manufacturing plans come as the region continues to struggle to secure vaccine doses.
Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, said that the region is still short of the doses needed to stem the flow of the pandemic.
“Vaccine inequity remains the Achilles’ heel of our response,” Etienne told reporters Wednesday.
“A handful of companies produce all the world’s supply of COVID-19 vaccines,” Etienne said. “Many of them are letting price and country of origin, not need, determine how doses are rolled out, so much of today’s vaccine supply remains in the hands of wealthy nations around the world.”