Responding to the spiraling COVID-19 situation in India, Pfizer Inc. announced this week that it will provide more than $70 million worth of medicines to the country immediately, with assistance from government and non-governmental organization partners.
“We are donating enough medicines to ensure that every COVID-19 patient in every public hospital across India can have access to them in the next 90 days free of charge,” Pfizer said in a tweeted statement. “This includes steroid medications to reduce inflammation, anticoagulants to help prevent blood clotting, and antibiotics that treat secondary bacterial infections.”
The company and its CEO, Albert Bourla, have described the push as its largest humanitarian relief effort to date. Spurred by the coronavirus’s relentless second wave in the nation, Pfizer hopes these shipments will potentially help hundreds of thousands of patients.
“Pfizer stands in solidarity with those affected by COVID-19 there and around the world and is doing everything possible to provide assistance,” Bourla said. “The immediate need is to treat those who are suffering in hospitals around the country. To that end, we are mobilizing the largest humanitarian relief effort in our company’s history to provide charity and immediate support to patients being treated in public hospitals. Right now, Pfizer colleagues and distribution centers in the U.S., Europe, and Asia are hard at work rushing shipments of Pfizer medicines the government of India has identified as part of its COVID treatment protocol.”
However, the shipments come without one notable exception: the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Though approved in numerous other countries throughout the world, the vaccine has not been greenlit for a patent in India. Thus far, the company has refused to forego patent protection before distributing the vaccine but is in talks with the Indian government to speed the process of approval.
“Unfortunately, our vaccine is not registered in India, although our application was registered months ago,” Bourla said. We are currently discussing with the Indian government an expedited pathway to make our Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available for use in the country.”
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, more than 222,000 people in India have died due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 360,000 new infections recorded over the course of Monday alone.