Pfizer donates $70m in Covid drugs to India as rapid approval for its vaccine discussed

Donation includes steroid medications, anticoagulants and antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections

Maroosha Muzaffar
Tuesday 04 May 2021 12:14
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<p>FILE photo. Pfizer Chairperson and CEO, Albert Bourla, said that this largest humanitarian relief effort in our company’s history. </p>

FILE photo. Pfizer Chairperson and CEO, Albert Bourla, said that this largest humanitarian relief effort in our company’s history.

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Pfizer has announced it will send at least $70m (£50m) worth of medicines to India as part of its Covid-19 treatment protocol.

The drugs giant said it would dispatch the medicines to India from its distribution centres in the US, Europe and Asia.

Albert Bourla, Pfizer chairman and CEO, said in an email to Pfizer India employees: “We are deeply concerned by the critical Covid-19 situation in India, and our hearts go out to you, your loved ones and all the people of India.

“The country currently has the highest rates for infections and hospitalisations anywhere in the world, and the immediate need is to treat those who are suffering in hospitals across the country.

“We are committed to being a partner in India’s fight against this disease and are quickly working to mobilise the largest humanitarian relief effort in our company’s history.”

In a letter to the employees that he also posted on his LinkedIn profile, Mr Bourla mentioned that Pfizer is donating these medicines to make sure every Covid-19 patient in every public hospital across the country “can have access to Pfizer medicines they need free of charge”.

The medicines include steroid medications to reduce inflammation, anticoagulants to help prevent blood clotting and antibiotics that treat secondary bacterial infections.

“This effort has the potential to impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients across India over the next 90 days,” Mr Bourla said.

The medicines will be available immediately.

Pfizer has also said the company will work with non-profit partners to help get the medicines where they are needed most.

Mr Bourla said: “This effort, in combination with Pfizer Foundation funding that supports humanitarian organisations providing essential and life-saving equipment to India, such as ventilators, oxygen concentrators and consumables, is our most comprehensive humanitarian relief response ever.”

Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is not yet registered in India. However, the chairman said that they had sent their application a month ago.

“We are currently discussing with the Indian government an expedited approval pathway to make our Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available for use in the country,” he said.

Encouraging his Indian colleagues to take care of their physical and mental health, he added that Pfizer is also making “a number of resources available, including Covid-19 testing support, telemedicine services, PPE kit reimbursements and home quarantine packages.”

Pfizer, in April, had said that it was offering a not-for-profit price for its vaccine for the government of India’s vaccination drive across the country. In a statement to the Press Trust of India, Mr Bourla had said: “Pfizer remains committed to continuing our engagement with the government towards making the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine available for use in the government’s immunisation programme in the country.”

Meanwhile, drug regulators in the US and Europe are planning to approve the use of the Pfizer - BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in adolescents aged between 12 to 15 years by next week. Currently, it is approved for use under ‘Emergency Use Authorisation’ in individuals above 16 years of age in both US and European Union.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical officer, has also recommended India declare a nationwide lockdown, as well as construct a large number of makeshift emergency hospitals and to start a “massive vaccination drive.”

India opened up vaccination for those above 18 in its third phase. So far, only 9.5 per cent of its 1.35 billion people are partially or fully immunised.

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