Pfizer comes out ahead for third dose against Covid and bets on frequent vaccination

Buoyed by the success of the Covid vaccination, Pfizer prepared a strategy to deal with the disease in the coming years. The company has delivered more than 1 billion coronavirus vaccines and expects to produce at least an additional 2 billion doses this year. For 2022, it says it has the capacity to generate another 4 billion. “Virtually every country in the world is arguing with us about additional doses,” said Albert Bourla, the company’s CEO, in a conversation with investors at the end of July.

To keep up with the demand, production is being spread across several countries. As part of this strategy, at the end of August, Pfizer announced a partnership with Brazilian pharmaceutical company Eurofarma to manufacture 100 million doses per year in Brazil. This despite the fact that, in Brazil, there have been frictions with the administration of Jair Bolsonaro. The company said it offered vaccines as early as 2020, but got no response. Then, in early 2021, the government refused to close the purchase for questioning the terms of the deal, but ended up making a deal and ordering 100 million doses in March and another 100 million in May.

Now, the federal government will give preference to Pfizer in the application of the third dose, one of the markets that Pfizer is ready to explore. Furthermore, the initial vaccination cycle is far from being completed in most countries. Worldwide, 5.38 billion doses of Covid vaccines were distributed. As the application is usually done in two parts, there are billions of people yet to be immunized, especially in Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Pfizer is also looking to open up new flanks, as an oral treatment for Covid. The drug PF-07321332 is being tested, which was designed to block an enzyme needed for the coronavirus to multiply. The laboratory took the lead several times throughout the pandemic. In the United States, it managed to be the first to have definitive approval from the FDA (the agency that approves drugs in the US), in August, it will be an option for the third dose in the country (next to Moderna) and is also ahead to obtain authorization for the use of the immunizing agent in children under 12, which should take place by the end of the year.
The definitive approval in the US opened space for more companies and government agencies to demand vaccination of their employees, as it removed the argument from anti-vaccination groups that it was an experimental product.

This pioneering spirit, which has made a difference in fighting the disease, also generates good financial results. For this year, the expected revenue with the immunizing agent is US$ 33.5 billion (approximately R$ 173.6 billion), which represents almost half of the company’s revenues, which also operates in areas such as oncological drugs and for rare diseases. On average, there is a 20% profit with the vaccine, before taxes.

The gain is shared fifty-fifty with the German company BioNTech, which helped develop the product, now called Cominarty. The name, a combination of words [em inglês, no original] community, Covid, immunity and mRMA, follows a marketing strategy aimed at increasing confidence in vaccination. “We remain confident in our ability to achieve an annual growth rate of more than 6% by 2025,” said Albert Bourla, the company’s CEO, in a conversation with investors in July. On the New York Stock Exchange, the company’s shares rose from $39 to $46 in the past two months. In five years, they accumulate an increase of 45%.

“We believe that Covid’s business will be similar to the flu business. But we will need to monitor to see if the application of immunizations will be annual or as there is an increased risk of infection,” said Mikael Dolsten, director of research at the company, at the same event. Getting production planning right is a challenge in the sector. “To deal with seasonal outbreaks, it is necessary to have vaccines that have already been purchased, sometimes six months before. And, if the products are similar, it becomes a more commercial dispute, like who gets a better deadline for delivery”, says Andrea Kohout , a consultant in the pharmacy sector, who has worked with purchases of immunization agents.

Covid’s vaccines are sold at lower prices to middle-income countries (generally at half the price offered to rich countries) and at cost to poor nations. For now, contracts are made only with national governments. “Based on the agreement signed and the availability of doses allocated to Brazil, at the moment we are unable to move forward with a supply negotiation for states, city halls and private companies,” Pfizer Brasil told Folha.

According to the Brazilian subsidiary, Pfizer invests US$ 8 billion a year in research and currently has more than one hundred new molecules under study, with a focus on meeting unmet medical needs. “The company has never had, in its entire history, a pipeline [fluxo de produção] so promising,” he said in a statement. The company was created in 1849 in New York by two German immigrants, Charles Pfizer and Charles Erhart. It started by selling a dewormer and then went on to make chemical products such as citric acid. , specialized in fermentation, which would be useful for mass producing antibiotics such as penicillin.

Before the current vaccine, the company’s biggest success had been Viagra, a drug initially thought of for heart problems, but later found to be able to facilitate erections. The tablet was released in 1998 with a major marketing campaign. Now Pfizer is preparing another major advertising action to make more people prefer its immunizing agent. In the US, you can freely choose which brand to take: the dose manufacturer is informed at the time of scheduling.

Covid’s vaccine was free to everyone in the United States, but it was an exception. As the country does not have a public health network, the government makes health plans offer vaccines free of charge or at a low cost to policyholders. And poor people can have government-paid plans like Medicaid. Pfizer declined to receive public funding for vaccine research from Operation Warp Speed, created under Donald Trump. However, in July 2020, the US government agreed the initial purchase of 100 million doses, for US$ 2 billion, and the company became part of the operation. The high efficacy of the vaccine, compared to other immunizers, attracted the attention of the public and governments.