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Remarks by Pfizer Canada President Cole Pinnow to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

08/03/21

March 8, 2021

It has been one year since this pandemic was declared.  Since then, Pfizer & BioNTech successfully developed a safe and efficacious vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 in record time, using a novel technology platform.  In order to do that, Pfizer invested more than $2 billion dollars at risk.  We planned for success and scaled up a very complex supply chain.  It requires more than 280 components coming from 86 different suppliers based in 19 different countries.  We also established a highly innovative delivery system for a product requiring ultra-cold storage and have shipped directly to hundreds of administration sites in Canada. 

As we gather here, three months after Gisèle Levesque became the first Canadian to be vaccinated, I’d like to remind you about a small, but important, part of the effort it took to bring the first vaccine to Canadians as soon as science would allow.

In August, we became the fourth country to complete an advanced purchase agreement for the vaccine.   We secured up to 76M doses while many other countries were also looking to lock in supply commitments.  In September, Health Canada introduced a rolling submission process that allowed us to file our vaccine data as soon as it became available.  We initiated our application in October and by mid-November we had made sufficient progress that a regulatory decision in early December became a possibility. 

It wasn’t until this time that we realized the need to accelerate both the initial delivery schedule and the province’s readiness to administer the vaccine.  This was not an easy task.  Pfizer, PSPC, PHAC and the provinces all worked very hard to find a viable path forward so that Canada could be ready.

As a result, we became the second country of the G7 to receive the vaccine when it arrived on December 14.  This was almost two months earlier than originally anticipated.  It’s a tremendous accomplishment by so many and we are very proud of this milestone achievement.

Following the initial roll out, deliveries were temporarily reduced for three weeks as we worked on scaling up of our Belgium manufacturing facility.  It is important to note that this was a deliberate decision.  We purposefully chose to slow down production in order to make improvements that helped to increase our global annual capacity from 1.3B to 2B doses.  Retooling our Belgium facility was the right thing to do: more vaccines produced, more countries receiving them, and more people immunized.  Canadians benefited from these improvements as well.

The complexity of both the scale up of our manufacturing facility and our global supply chain is why we insisted that our contractual obligations for delivery be on a quarterly basis.  This is not unique to Canada.  Pfizer’s delivery commitments around the world are on a quarterly basis.

We understand that Canadians want to know when they will be protected against the virus.  We have gone above and beyond our original contractual obligations, in two important ways, to provide as much certainty as possible.  First, we share a rolling weekly forecast as soon as we have confidence in its reliability.  Today, the public knows what to minimally expect from now through mid-April.  Second, we are constantly working to accelerate our deliveries.  Canadians will now receive 12.75M doses earlier than our original contract required.

To date, we have supplied over 2.5M doses and have never missed a weekly delivery forecast.  We remain confident that we will continue to be successful in delivering our forecasts going forward.  By the end of this month we will have supplied 5.5M doses.  In Q2, we will supply 12.8M doses, and in Q3 it will be 21.7M.  By the end of this September, we will have provided Canadians with 40M doses.

While we are optimistic about what this will mean as we emerge from this pandemic, we also need to reflect on how we can be better prepared for the next one.  There are best practices and lessons to be learned.  We have a unique opportunity to look back at Canada’s pre-pandemic situation with clarity and work together in order to improve the life sciences sector in this great country. 

Canadians have a newfound appreciation for the value of a resilient local biopharmaceutical industry.  Past efforts to foster the life sciences sector have been undermined by detrimental policies of federal governments for more than a decade.  If Canada wants to change course and succeed, it must put a stop to one-way consultations and engage in real dialogue with our industry.  We stand ready to have this much needed conversation and contribute to Canada’s future.

As I end my remarks, I would like to reiterate that what has been accomplished so far is extraordinary.  I express my sincere thanks to the 46,000 clinical trial participants, the hundreds of investigators, and the thousands of Pfizer and BioNTech scientists, clinicians and manufacturing professionals, many of whom have worked day and night, knowing that every moment matters.