Pfizer CEO Says US Presidential Debate “Disappointing” in Note to Employees Criticizing Politicization of Coronavirus Vaccination Process

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Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Thursday sent a note to employees criticizing this week’s US presidential debate as “disappointing,” saying the political rhetoric surrounding the epidemic and vaccine development “is undermining public confidence.”

“Once again, I was disappointed that the prevention of a deadly disease was being discussed in political terms rather than scientific terms,” he wrote. About a third of Americans have already said they will not get a vaccine for Covid-19, once it is approved.

He said Pfizer felt it had an obligation to step up the creation of a vaccine to protect against the coronavirus, which has now claimed the lives of more than a million people around the world. Bourla acknowledged the company’s ambitious goal of producing 100 million doses by the end of the year.

“Now we are approaching our goal and although we have no political considerations with our pre-announced date, we find ourselves in the melting pot of the US presidential election,” he wrote. “In this hyper-partisan year, there are some who would like us to act faster and others who are arguing for delay. None of these options are right for me. ”

He told employees that vaccine development is moving “at the speed of science” and the company will not succumb to political pressure. Pfizer is feeling the pressure from the “billions of people, millions of businesses and hundreds of public servants who depend on us,” he said.

The company did not take any investment money from any government, he added. “Our independence is a valuable asset,” he said.

Dear American colleagues,On Tuesday evening, I joined the millions of Americans who attended the presidential debate. Once again, I was disappointed that the prevention of a deadly disease was being discussed in political rather than scientific terms. People, who are naturally confused, don’t know who or what to believe. Global health has too much at stake, and public trust and vaccine acceptance is so important to me that I write to explain the principles we use today at Pfizer.

Remember that since the start of the year it was clear that the suffering and destruction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic would be extreme. In February, cases started to skyrocket across the world. Dealing with a pandemic requires many simultaneous attack fronts, but it has become evident that a safe and effective vaccine can be an essential part of the solution. And it would take a huge effort on the part of a large company to achieve that goal. I knew Pfizer had an obligation to step up and lead.

That’s why, in March, I declared a bold ambition: for Pfizer to create a vaccine and for us to devote all the resources necessary to be successful. I further announced, after consulting with our scientists, that we may have vaccine data ready to be submitted to the FDA by the end of the third quarter, in October, and hopefully one hundred million doses will be delivered. by the end of the year. I knew our goal was ambitious, but it would also be essential to protect against the second wave of cases that could accompany the return of colder weather in the fall.

Since then, and every day for seven months, we have kept our shoulder on this wheel. Our scientists have leveraged our expertise in vaccine research and development, our manufacturing team has innovated to solve production and delivery issues, and we have recruited more than 35,000 people in clinical trials in multiple countries. Every ounce of our capacity has been spent and nearly $ 2 billion is at risk.

Now we are approaching our goal and despite the lack of political considerations with our pre-announced date, we find ourselves in the melting pot of the US presidential election. In this hyper-partisan year, there are some who would like us to go faster and others who are arguing for delay. None of these options are right for me. In this context, people need to know three things:

First, we are moving at the speed of science. With such a fierce virus, time is our enemy. This week we will hit the grim marker of 1 million worldwide deaths and the number continues to climb. This danger replaces all other considerations of timing.

Second, we would never succumb to political pressure. The only pressures we feel – and this weighs heavily – are the billions of people, millions of businesses and hundreds of public servants who depend on us. We have engaged with many elected leaders around the world during this health crisis, but Pfizer has not taken any financial investment from any government. Our independence is a valuable asset.

Third, our priority is the development of a safe and effective vaccine to end this pandemic. I have a duty to Pfizer’s 171-year history to honor our heritage of discovering and manufacturing high-quality drugs. We will never cut a corner. Pfizer’s goal is simple: “Breakthroughs that change patients’ lives.” He’s our North Star.

Finally, I enjoy a solid political debate, but I am not a politician. I am a scientist, business owner, husband and father, friend and neighbor who cares deeply about the integrity of this potential vaccine. The amplified political rhetoric around vaccine development, timing and political credit undermines public confidence. I can’t predict exactly when or even if our vaccine will be approved by the FDA for distribution to the public. But I know the world will be safer if we stop talking about vaccine delivery in political terms and instead focus on rigorous independent scientific evaluation and a robust independent approval process.

Let’s continue to work together to build trust in science. This is what we do at Pfizer. Imagine the tragedy compounded if we have a safe and effective vaccine that many people don’t trust.

It is a risk that none of us should accept.

CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace contributed to this article.

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