Swiss giant Novartis to aid in Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

The pharma giant Novartis said Friday it has signed an initial agreement to help produce the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 in Switzerland as drugmakers struggle to meet demands for jabs.

"Under the terms of the contract manufacturing agreement, Novartis plans to take bulk mRNA active ingredient from BioNTech and fill this into vials [….] for shipment back to BioNTech for their distribution to healthcare system customers around the world," said the company in a statement.

The agreement involves rare cooperation among pharma rivals for making the two-dose vaccine that was the first to get recognition for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The development came as the big pharma has come under fire for not meeting some of the expectations about vaccines in fighting the pandemic which has created tensions involving the public, drug companies, and governments.

Subject to reaching a final agreement, Novartis plans to begin production in the second quarter of this year at an aseptic manufacturing plant in Stein, Switzerland.

The first shipment of the finished vaccine is expected to be made within the third quarter of this year.

"Novartis has been mobilizing on multiple fronts to support the global pandemic response," said Steffen Lang, the head of Novartis Technical Operations.

"We are committed to leverage our manufacturing capabilities to help support the supply of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics around the world. We expect this to be the first of a number of such agreements."

On Thursday, Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said the growing expectations on science and vaccine development are causing tensions in communities as cases and deaths swell.

"The increasing expectation of science and vaccine development, production, and equitable distribution is not being met as fast as we would all like," noted Kluge, saying communities sensed that an end to the pandemic was in sight with a vaccine.

At the same time, he said, populations being "called to adhere to restrictive measures in the face of a new threat is causing tension, angst, fatigue, and confusion."

Novartis said some 50 countries' health regulatory bodies have authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Those countries included Switzerland and the EU member states, while the vaccine has received authorizations for emergency use in the UK, US, Canada, and Hong Kong.

Source: Anadolu Agency