Pfizer to start pilot programme for Covid-19 immunisation in four US states

Pfizer previously released initial data on its vaccine developed with BioNTech SE that showed it to be more than 90 per cent effective. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Pfizer Inc has launched a pilot delivery programme for its experimental Covid-19 vaccine in four US states, as the US drugmaker seeks to address distribution challenges facing its ultra-cold storage requirements.

Pfizer's vaccine, which was shown to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 based on initial data, must be shipped and stored at -70 deg C, significantly below the standard for vaccines of 2-8 deg C.

"We are hopeful that results from this vaccine delivery pilot will serve as the model for other US states and international governments, as they prepare to implement effective Covid-19 vaccine programmes," Pfizer said in a statement on Monday (Nov 16).

The US drugmaker said it had selected Rhode Island, Texas, New Mexico, and Tennessee for the programme after taking into account their differences in overall size, diversity of populations and immunisation infrastructure, as well as the states' need to reach individuals in varied urban and rural settings.

The four states included in this pilot programme will not receive vaccine doses earlier than other states by virtue of this pilot, nor will they receive any differential consideration.

The company expects to have enough safety data on the vaccine from the ongoing large scale late-stage trials by the third week of November before proceeding to apply for emergency use authorisation (EUA).

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech SE have a US$1.95 billion (S$2.62 billion) deal to supply 100 million doses of the vaccine to the US government, which has an option to acquire up to an additional 500 million doses.

Earlier on Monday, rival Moderna Inc said its experimental vaccine was 94.5 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 based on interim data from a late-stage trial, boosting hopes that vaccines against the disease may be ready for use soon.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a new technology called synthetic messenger RNA to activate the immune system against the virus.

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