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After Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX) announced a plan to widen access to Covid-19 vaccines by striking a production deal with a South African company, the effort was quickly panned by patient advocates who argued the arrangement does not go far enough.

In a ballyhooed announcement, the drug makers said they contracted with The Biovac Institute, a vaccine maker backed in part by the South African government, to assemble the final stages of their Covid-19 vaccine, a process known in the pharmaceutical industry as “fill-and-finish.” From there, more than 100 million finished doses will be supplied exclusively to all 55 African Union countries annually.


“This collaboration is another example of our commitment, from day one, to provide fair and equitable access to the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to everyone, everywhere. This commitment has been our North Star, and this agreement is just one example of the tireless work being done to expand access,” Pfizer chief executive officer Albert Bourla said at a Wednesday meeting about Covid-19 vaccine access that was sponsored by the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization.

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