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Health

Pfizer vaccine production on the rise as pandemic hits one-year mark

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE will exceed their original global production target for COVID-19 vaccines by as much as 20% this year, as they ramp up production a year into the global pandemic, Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said on Thursday.

The companies also released real-world data from Israel earlier on Thursday suggesting their vaccine was 94% effective in preventing asymptomatic infections, suggesting it could significantly reduce virus transmission.

“These are stunning numbers that are giving us a clear indication that liberation is coming,” Bourla said in an interview on the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic. “It is a testament to the power of science, and the power of human ingenuity.”

More than 2.7 million people around the world have died from COVID-19 so far.

Bourla - who got his second shot of the vaccine on Tuesday - said the company expects to produce 2.3 billion to 2.4 billion doses this year, exceeding their original target of 2 billion doses.

By the fourth quarter of this year, Pfizer and BioNTech will reach a 3 billion dose a year production run rate, and should be able to produce that much next year, he said.

Pfizer has said it expects revenue of at least $15 billion from its half of the vaccine sales this year.

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Middle-income countries will pay around half the price as high-income countries for their doses, and low income countries will get the vaccine at cost, Bourla said.

Pfizer expects to meet its commitment of supplying 120 million coronavirus vaccine doses to the U.S. government by the end of March. That would require delivering roughly 60 million doses over the next three weeks.

“Those have already been manufactured” and are currently being tested for quality, he said.

“Unless a batch (of vaccine) fails, we will be able to provide them. Our track record is that our batches don’t fail,” he said.

Pfizer’s German partner BioNTech began developing the vaccine last January, and the U.S. drugmaker signed on in early March as the health crisis accelerated. Their vaccine received its first regulatory authorizations in December.

As of Wednesday morning, Pfizer had delivered over 60 million doses of its vaccine in the United States, and nearly 49 million of them have been administered, according to data for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 33 million Americans have been fully vaccinated with one of the three authorized vaccines.

In the United States, the vaccine is authorized for use in people aged 16 or older. Bourla said the company plans to submit data for children aged 12 to 16 very soon.

He said his assumption was that the vaccine should be authorized for that age range by the fall, adding that data on children aged 5 to 11 can be expected by year-end.

Reporting by Michael Erman; Additional reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Cynthia Osterman

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