Cautious optimism for Pfizer research plan

12.01.2021 - 13:55
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 Mynd: Almannavarnir
The American pharmaceuticals firm Pfizer is currently examining the proposed herd immunity research idea proposed for Iceland, according to chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason. He hopes for a firm yes or no from Pfizer this week.

Þórólfur and Kári Stefánsson, founder and CEO of deCODE genetics, have been in talks with Pfizer about Iceland participating in Stage 4 research into the COVID-19 vaccine into herd immunity. Under the plan, the country would receive enough of the vaccine for most of its population much sooner than currently planned.

Pfizer wants to answer yes 

“The ball is still with them,” Þórólfur told RÚV today. “They have not formally responded. I know they are looking into whether they have enough vaccine for this. Because there is of course great demand for the vaccine and they have commitments all over the world,” he says, adding that Pfizer is not in an easy position. 

"But I know that they are very interested in this sort of research. And I believe the situation is currently that they are looking for ways to be able to answer us in a positive way. It just has to come to light how it will work out,” Þórólfur says. 

Political manoeuvres 

Asked about potential political conflict, Þórólfur says that European cooperation on the procurement of vaccines is partly about making sure individual countries do not contract with manufacturers for extra doses.  

“The idea is naturally to try and ensure all nations access to vaccines so that the big and rich countries do not push in front of others. That is under a lot of discussion and doubtless a lot of politics at play that I don’t know about," Þórólfur says. 

Þórólfur says he does not know whether Israel’s contract with Pfizer to immunise most of the country before the end of March will have any impact on negotiations. “I can’t say. I know that everyone is trying to get more vaccine and that Pfizer was the first on the market, so everyone is pushing them. But I have no idea how the matter is being approached between Israel and Pfizer,” he says. 

An answer this week 

Þórólfur was last in contact with Pfizer yesterday and hopes for more information soon. “Yes, I hope it will be this week some time that they can give us a yes or a no. I think one just needs to wait and see,” he adds. 

Many believe the political consequences of Iceland jumping the queue would be mitigated by the genuine scientific need for the sort of research proposed. A small island nation is considered a good location for research into when herd immunity can be achieved through vaccination within communities around the world.

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