Covid 19
Exclusive: How Argentina lost the Pfizer vaccine
Two Argentines were in charge of the first vaccine to be applied in the world but the government did not take advantage of it.

At the announcement for the contract with Russia to vaccinate the Argentineans against coronavirus, the Fernández administration made two unfortunate announcements: one is that the doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are missing and the other is that the agreement with US company Pfizer did not come through.

Pfizer, which on Thursday obtained a key approval of the United States FDA, produced the first vaccine that began to be applied worldwide at a civilian level in the United Kingdom, and is so far the one with the best "image" among those that already requested authorization to be applied throughout the planet.

On Thursday, Health Minister Ginés González García confirmed that the contract with Pfizer will not be signed, despite the fact that only a week ago he asked Anmat for authorization to start inoculating in Argentina.

At first Pfizer, had the possibility of delivering some doses in December and the rest of the 3 million that we were talking about between January and February. Unfortunately, despite the fact that we were asked for a receipt with a law that was taken out by the Argentine Congress, we still haven't been able to sign the contract.

The Health Minister seemed to blame the US company for the collapse of the agreement. "We asked Pfizer with the condition that it be first, because the price was very different from other prices, so naturally it was the priority, so we asked for vaccines for December, January and February. At the beginning, Pfizer had the possibility of delivering some doses in December and the rest of the 3 million that we were talking about between January and February. Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that they asked us for a safeguard through a bill that was approved by the Argentine Congress, we still haven't been able to sign the contract. As a consequence, we don't know what it is, but they say that it is the headquarters, that this, that the other," said Ginés.

"We are still in conversations but we have not really been able to sign the contract despite the enormous willingness of the Argentine government. Don't forget that Pfizer was the first to be received by the president himself, when Pfizer made the clinical trial, which already ended in Argentina, with 6 thousand volunteers," assured the minister, although logically he did not give dates for the eventual arrival of the North American vaccine on Argentine soil.

"I have the suspicion that there is an availability problem with which they are not encouraged to sign the contract," said Ginés. Indeed, the U.S. pharmaceutical company is overflowing with orders and is not even able to guarantee new deliveries to the U.S. Due to supply problems, the target for 2020 went from 100 to 50 million doses.

But the problem is that Argentina did not close the agreement months ago when Mexico, for example, secured 34 million doses. The Mexican government, unlike Argentina, did not put all its chips on Sigman, although the country is also part of the AstraZeneca vaccine production.

And Sigman would have been a determinant for Argentina not to close with Pfizer just in case the AstraZeneca vaccine, which he is in charge of developing for the country, was delayed as it finally happened. The opportunity was within reach, the two laboratories met with Alberto and asked him for permission to make tests in the country. The same thing was done in Mexico and LĂłpez Obrador took advantage of it to close with the two laboratories and he already has 34 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine guaranteed.

On July 10, Fernández met in Olivos with the general manager of Pfizer in Argentina, Nicolás Vaquer, and the scientific director of the Infant Foundation, Fernando Polack, who informed him that Argentina was selected to carry out one of the test phases for a possible vaccine against the coronavirus COVID-19.

Polack, a world-renowned infectious diseases specialist, was in charge of carrying out the trials. But he was not alone: he had the collaboration of another Argentinean who is key in the global structure of the company based in New York: Pfizer's Vice President of Vaccine Research and Development, Alejandra Gurtman, a graduate of the University of Buenos Aires.

Polack and Gurtman went down in history this very Thursday, when the prestigious specialized magazine The New England Journal of Medicine determined the efficiency of Pfizer's vaccine in 95%. Polack is the first name of the list of scientists that appears named by the magazine.

Argentina was left without the Pfizer vaccine despite the fact that two Argentines had key positions in its development. Polack, a world-renowned infectious disease researcher, was in charge of carrying out the trials, along with another Argentinean who is key to the company's global structure: the Vice President of Vaccine Research and Development, Alejandra Gurtman, a graduate of the University of Buenos Aires.

However, despite the nationality of these two outstanding scientists, in Argentina they met with Sigman's business voracity, which with its influence over the president and the Minister of Health managed to have it considered as "Plan A" a month after the meeting in Olivos between Alberto and Polack. When Pfizer asked for authorization in Anmat last week, Sigman would have moved its influences. As Pfizer's request for authorization from Anmat to vaccinate in Argentina was coming up, Sigman was quick to say that AstraZeneca had begun producing the vaccine on November 25.

Days later, the image of the AstraZeneca vaccine entered a worldwide crisis, to the point that the New York Times, the most important newspaper in the world, spoke harshly of its failures and of the lack of transparency of the laboratory that partnered with Sigman in Argentina.

The president seemed to take note of that this Thursday and denied Sigman. He spoke about the AstraZeneca vaccine "if it is finally put into production", thus denying that it is already being manufactured as announced by the executive.

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