Since COVID-19 gripped the world in early 2020, the race was on for an effective vaccine that could combat the virus. While on average it can take years — and sometimes even decades — to develop, test and approve vaccines for public use, the medical research and development community worked around the clock to create a viable vaccine for an illness that has devastated the world and, as of this writing, has sadly led to more than 2.35 million global deaths. Against all odds, the first vaccine against COVID-19 received emergency authorization in December 2020 — less than a year after the virus was first reported in the United States. The PA Chamber is proud to count among our membership companies that have been and continue to be at the forefront of this momentous achievement in our world’s history.
Pfizer Inc. has become a world-renowned name for having released the first emergency use authorization of the COVID-19 vaccine. In concert with BioNTech, the companies leveraged decades of scientific expertise throughout much of 2020 to design and execute a rigorous Phase 3 clinical trial program and make what was then an investigational COVID-19 vaccine available as quickly — and safely — as possible.
The Phase 3 clinical trial began in late July 2020, recruiting more than 150 investigators and their study teams around the world to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the vaccine before it was distributed to the general public. In December 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.
“Developing a breakthrough vaccine to help prevent COVID-19 is only possible through the dedicated work of thousands of individuals and those who volunteer to take part in research,” said Alejandro Cane, vice president of Pfizer U.S. Vaccines Medical Affairs. Now in the distribution phase, Pfizer’s talented team is continuing to do all they can to help ensure the health and safety of their colleagues and maintain the supply of the vaccine to people around the world. The company’s manufacturing and supply chain professionals are also working around the clock via a comprehensive preparedness plan to ensure that Pfizer’s life-saving COVID-19 medicines continue to be available to patients throughout the pandemic.
In addition to the Pfizer-BioNTech two-dose vaccine, Moderna — also a two-dose vaccine — has since received emergency authorization and is also now being administered across the United States. Coming hot on the tail of these two medicines is a single-shot dose by Johnson & Johnson, which recently announced that it met all efficacy and safety data during its Phase 3 clinical trial. As variants of the virus are alarmingly spreading around the world, this vaccine is another effective solution to inoculate the largest number of people possible, which will have the maximum impact to help end the pandemic for good. Fortunately, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — which as of this writing has not yet received emergency approval but is well on its way — are all proven to be effective against COVID-19 variants and will all certainly be indispensable as the fight against the Coronavirus continues.
“These results are a testament to the extraordinary efforts of everyone involved in our COVID-19 vaccine candidate clinical program, and we are extremely grateful to the clinical trial staff and trial participants for their invaluable contributions,” said Mathai Mammen, M.D., Ph.D., who serves as the global head of Janssen Research & Development, which led Johnson & Johnson’s clinical trials. “Changing the trajectory of the pandemic will require mass vaccination to create herd immunity … the ability to avoid hospitalizations and deaths would change the game in combating the pandemic.”
Other PA Chamber members have played a key role in leading the world into a post-pandemic era through their support for the ongoing efforts to rid the world of the virus. One example is the Almac Group — which is proudly partnering with a variety of global pharmaceutical, biotech and research institutions to support more than 80 separate crucial research projects into COVID-19 treatment options. The company is supporting this urgent research need through a range of service areas, including analytical services, peptide development, expedited Interactive Response Technology support and clinical trial manufacturing, packaging and distribution. These vital projects cover a range of different areas, including vaccines and various potential treatments for symptoms and the effects of this disease.
In addition to this immediate research support, Almac continues to directly contribute to key operations in the supply chain of hundreds of life-saving drugs in a wide variety of therapeutic areas, including oncology, neurology, pain management and cardiovascular. They have continued to conduct critical business operations, and are grateful to their dedicated, skilled employees who have continued to support their operations during this unprecedented time.
“In times such as these, Almac’s mission to Advance Human Health has never been more applicable,” said Valarie Higgins, Almac Clinical Technologies’ resident and managing director. “We are committed to supporting our pharmaceutical, biotech and research institution partners through any means necessary — and are proud that our organization has supported over 80 separate COVID-19 related research projects. While 2020 has undoubtedly been a challenging year, the successes in clinical innovation have been unprecedented, and must be recognized. We celebrate the historic success of our colleagues as therapeutic and vaccine options continue to progress through clinical trials and into commercialization, and remain confident that scientific innovation will bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
A recurring theme of the PA Chamber’s ongoing “Bringing PA Back” initiative is one of togetherness — and the recognition that the only way the state, nation and world will move beyond these challenging times and into a brighter future it is if we unify and do the right thing. This includes masking up, social distancing and sanitizing. But it also includes promoting vaccination — a tribute to the hard work and remarkable achievements of the companies that are gifting the world with a bright light at the end of the pandemic’s long, dark tunnel. For our part, our organization is continuing to tell businesses to operate with the safety of their employees and customers in mind; and is urging employers to get vaccinated as soon as they’re able to and encourage their employees, friends and family members to do the same. The sooner that vaccines can get into arms and responsible community action can curtail the spread of COVID-19, the sooner we can all get back to life as we know it.