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Pfizer will provide medicines to 1.2 billion people in 45 countries on a not-for-profit basis

RIYADH: Leading pharmaceutical company Pfizer has launched ‘A Deal for a Healthier World’, a groundbreaking initiative to provide high-quality, patented medicines and vaccines on a not-for-profit basis to 1.2 billion people in 45 countries around the world. low-income countries to reduce health inequities, a senior company official said.

Patrick van der Loo, Pfizer’s regional president for Africa and the Middle East, told Arab News that the company plans to reduce by 50% by 2023 the number of people in low-income countries who do not have no access to his medication.

Patrick van der Loo, regional president of Pfizer for Africa and the Middle East.

“We wanted to ensure that these products are now available to these 45 low-income and lower-middle-income countries, which means that 1.2 billion people will additionally have access to these innovative medicines from Pfizer,” said said van der Loo.

The countries of the agreement include 27 low-income countries and 18 lower-middle-income countries that have moved from low-income to lower-middle-income classification over the past 10 years.

Pfizer will work with health officials in Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal and Uganda to ensure medicines and vaccines reach those who need them.

The initiative will include expertise to support diagnosis, education and training of healthcare professionals and improve supply chain management.

The company will apply lessons learned from these five countries to support the rollout of the program in the remaining 40 countries, it said in a statement.

Van der Loo added that the program also covers at least two Middle Eastern countries that meet World Bank criteria.

“We selected the countries based on the World Bank’s classification of a nation. So we looked at the classification of low income. And that’s why we included countries like Syria and Yemen,” he said.

Program economy

The senior executive of Pfizer clarified that his company had no intention of making the slightest profit from this program, assuring that it was based on humanitarian considerations.

“We only charge for manufacturing and minimal distribution costs. This means that all other costs, whether regulatory work, diagnostic work, or all the other elements mentioned above, will be at our expense. So we have a budget to get started,” van der Loo explained.

He was optimistic that the initiative would not end with just Pfizer and hoped that other companies that have expertise in diagnostics or other areas would also join. He added that Pfizer is looking for a partnership with governments to ensure the success of this program.

“Together we can make things happen. We know we’re a big company, but we’re just one company. That’s why we need these partnerships with governments. We need this partnership with the Gates Foundation. We need these partnerships with development finance institutions to get the core off the ground properly,” he added.

Pfizer seeks to include all or most countries that fall into this category on board.

“We expect to have the majority of countries on board by the second half of this year,” van der Loo stressed.

Lessons from the COVID-19 experience

Van der Loo also pointed out that Pfizer has been evaluating the effectiveness of its COVID-19 vaccine and has continued to work on improving other types of drugs.

“Let me start by saying it’s very effective,” he said. “We have already made improvements to the life cycle of our COVID-19 vaccine. Thus, previously the product could only be stored at a very deep freezing temperature and for a very short period of time. But now we’re talking weeks. We have also developed a special vaccine for six months to five years and ready-to-use type formulations.

He added that his company is also working on other types of vaccines and drugs.

“We are working on other types of formulations, for example if it is necessary to develop specific variant vaccines. We can do it from start to finish in about 100 days.

Van der Loo also pointed out that Pfizer has deployed more than three billion vaccines.

“We have deployed more than three billion COVID-19 vaccines in 180 countries. So I think all of those experiences in those countries have proven invaluable in determining how best to roll out this deal. And that’s why we were also able to switch so quickly with countries like Rwanda, Malawi, Senegal or Uganda.

Partnership with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

Pfizer has an extensive manufacturing network, which includes more than 60 locations around the world.

The company has a significant collaboration with a biotechnology institute in South Africa that manufactures the COVID-19 vaccine for African Union countries.

It is also present in the Middle East and North Africa, notably with a factory in Saudi Arabia.

“We are also interested in collaborating with governments as we are doing here in the region by improving the level of competence so that countries can take more action on their own.”

Van der Loo revealed that Pfizer is considering broader collaboration with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“So localization isn’t just about brick and mortar and building a factory. And I think it’s that broader collaboration that Pfizer envisions by partnering with countries like we do in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.