Vaccinate the whole planet? This is a boon that the manufacturers of vaccines against Covid-19 do not intend to let slip. After having massively stocked the bags of rich countries of the North over the past seven months – around 30% of the 3.3 billion doses already injected to date have been in countries considered “high income” by the World Bank -, pharmaceutical manufacturers are positioning themselves to fill the empty refrigerators of their less well-off neighbors to the south. Once their first orders have been fulfilled, they will be able to tackle this request.
To achieve full immunization coverage of 70% of their population – the minimum threshold required, according to scientists, to guarantee herd immunity – low and middle-income countries will need 9.1 billion doses of vaccine. However, they have, for the moment, received and administered only a part of them: almost a quarter, of which the very large majority in China. What offer great leeway to pharmaceutical groups. Especially since the hypothesis of a seasonality of the virus, which would require booster shots each year, suggests a juicy financial outlook well beyond 2021.
The world star of the market, the messenger RNA vaccine developed by the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, has already set serious milestones. “We had announced that we would provide the world with more than 2.5 billion doses in 2021. In fact, our internal target is 3 billion doses”, specified Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, on the social network LinkedIn in May, before adding that more than a billion of them “Will go to low and middle income countries”.
Advance of Pfizer and Moderna
For the past year, Big Pharma has been building up bilateral agreements with states around the world. More than a hundred contracts have been signed, including dozens with countries in the South. “Most of the countries that did not choose us at the start have returned [vers nous] », continued Albert Bourla. The manufacturer, which has shipped 700 million doses worldwide, benefits from the good reputation of its vaccine and the solidity of its production chains – almost all of its vials come out of its own factories or those of its partner – and raw material supply, where some of its competitors, struggling to rapidly densify their factory networks or facing difficulties with their subcontractors, have experienced delays.
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