In 2018, Dr. Ugur Sahin addressed a conference room of infectious disease experts, making a bold — and ultimately prophetic — statement. He announced that his company, BioNTech, could use its messenger RNA technology for rapid development of a vaccine in the event of a global pandemic.
At the time, COVID-19 didn’t exist, and BioNTech had never even brought a product to market. Today, however, BioNTech and Pfizer have developed a vaccine that’s proving to be more than 90% effective at preventing the virus.
“The stunning results vaulted BioNTech and Pfizer to the front of the race to find a cure for a disease that has killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide,” David Gelles writes in The New York Times. Dr. Anthony Fauci says most Americans should be able to receive the vaccine by the end of April.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the United States has ordered 100 million doses, with the option to purchase 500 million more; the European Union ordered 200 million, with an option for another 100 million; and Japan ordered 120 million. The United Kingdom and countries in South America and the Asia-Pacific have also placed significant orders.
This all started back in January, when Dr. Sahin read an article about the virus’s rapid outbreak across China. Convinced that a full-scale pandemic was only a matter of time, he instructed his scientists to immediately begin working on a vaccine.
Sahin says their recent success could mean “the beginning of the end of the COVID era” — which can’t come soon enough, as cities worldwide are fighting yet another new set of spikes. Additionally, more Americans are now in the hospital with COVID-19 than at any other point during the pandemic.
Of course, a major factor in the ultimate success of the vaccine is a working cold chain. With that in mind, Pfizer has built a staging ground the size of a football field, equipped with 350 freezers to hold vaccines before distribution. The company also developed a temperature-controlled shipping container to ensure the doses arrive frozen and effective. The GPS-trackable container holds boxes full of dry ice that can store up to 5,000 vaccines for 10 days at -70 degrees Celsius before requiring re-icing.
The Wall Street Journal adds that Pfizer plans to move about 7.6 million doses to airports every day, partnering with FedEx, UPS and DHL to deliver 100 million doses this year and another 1.3 billion in 2021.
“Ensuring over a billion people globally have access to our potential vaccine is as critical as developing the vaccine itself,” Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla told The Journal.
The power of partnership
Exciting collaborations, such as that of BioNTech, Pfizer and their delivery partners, prove that the toughest challenges can be overcome when we stand united. Here at ASCM, our global network of alliances and thought-leadership collaborations are also fueling supply chain innovation and delivering a portfolio of groundbreaking products and services to members and customers. Together, we’re on our way to building the kinds of supply chains that have the power to make a life-saving impact across the globe.