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the great human adventure behind the vaccine from giant Pfizer


#Ugur #Sahin. #Photo AFP

#One winter morning in a kitchen in #Germany, a couple of researchers are seated for breakfast.
Özlem Türeci and #Ugur #Sahin, leaders of the biotechnology start-up #BioNTech, agree.

“#We must kick-start” research into a vaccine against a new virus raging in #China.

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#Ugur #Sahin has just read a scientific publication describing the rapid spread of this virus in #Wuhan.

Özlem Türeci.  Photo AFP
Özlem Türeci. #Photo AFP

“#He concluded that there was a strong chance that a pandemic could be imminent,” says his wife, #Ms Türeci.

#This is the starting point of an epic that will lead to the development of the first vaccine against covid-19 to be authorized in the #Western world.

A feat achieved in record time – as with other vaccines already on the market.

#On #January 24, the couple therefore decides that all the resources of their SME, allocated so far to research on immunotherapies against cancer, will now be devoted to developing a remedy against this viral pneumonia of unknown origin.

#Operation “#Speed ​​of light”

#We have to go fast, the operation is called “#Speed ​​of light”. “#Since that date (…), there hasn’t been a day when we haven’t worked on this project,” says Türeci.

#Four days later, on #January 28, #Germany confirmed on its territory the first known case of human-to-human transmission on #European soil.


AFP

#Less than two weeks later, the #World #Health #Organization (WHO) for the first time designates the new disease: covid-19. #Quickly raised to the rank of “global health emergency”.

#March: the world under cover

#Spring begins to shudder in #Mainz, a picturesque city that shelters half-timbered buildings and especially the headquarters of #BioNTech, when the epidemic, which started in #China, turns into a global health crisis.

The outbreak of infections is forcing governments to close borders, schools, cultural and sports institutions, and administrations. The world is sealed off.


#On #March 27, in #Germany as everywhere in the world, #Lufthansa planes remain grounded. #Photo #Christof STACHE / AFP

#Already, the “#Mittelstand”, this network of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which makes the success of the #German economy, is rolling up its sleeves to take up the challenge ahead.

#BioNTech, an SME over a century old

A stone’s throw from #BioNTech’s headquarters, an SME with 130 years of existence is accelerating the pace of its production lines.

#Although little known, the glass specialist #Schott is a major player in the pharmaceutical industry thanks to its bottles used by the millions for clinical research on the virus.

The “borosilicate” glass which he has made his specialty is highly sought after for its ability to withstand extreme temperatures, ranging from -80 to 500 degrees.


#Photo AFP

A property that will prove to be essential. The #BioNTech / #Pfizer vaccine indeed needs to be stored at -70 degrees.

#Two billion vials

#By the end of 2021, #Schott plans to produce enough vials for two billion doses of vaccine.

#Society faces covid-19 even within its walls. A major production site, in #Mitterleich in #Bavaria, found itself at the heart of the pandemic very early on, when after an #Oktoberfest, the locality became one of the first hotbeds of the new coronavirus.

#And as a consequence of the border closure, several workers from the #Czech #Republic “have not seen their friends or families for weeks”.


#At the #German-Czech border, #March 9. AFP #Photo

#Around the world, the pandemic is pinning planes to the ground and transforming usually crowded airports into bleak and deserted areas.

#Pharmaceutical transport

#But at the pharmaceutical center of the freight company #Lufthansa #Cargo located in the #Frankfurt airport, activity is accelerating, stress is mounting.

The largest #European pharmaceutical transport hub, which handled 120,000 tonnes of cargo last year, is preparing to ship millions of doses of vaccine.

#In total, the site has 12,000 air-conditioned m2 reserved for this type of product. The necessary temperatures are obtained in special containers thanks to blocks of dry ice, CO2 in solid form at -78.9 degrees.


#Photo AFP
AFP
AFP

#Fraport, the operator of #Frankfurt airport, is not the only company investing in the cold chain.

“#Colder than in the #Arctic!”

#In green #Baden-Württemberg, the company #Binder, another #German SME unknown to the general public, comes into play.

#Expertise? “#Super-freezers” in which “it is colder than in the #Arctic”, according to #German media. #In fact, the temperature in these devices can drop to -90 °.

The #Tuttlingen company, one of the market leaders, first supplied the laboratories, then the logistics and is now working with the #German authorities to equip the vaccination centers.


#Photo AFP

“#It all started in #August when we received requests from logistics companies (…) they said to themselves ‘we must equip our storage centers with freezers'”, says #Anne #Lenze, communications officer.

“#We work 24 hours a day”

#Since then, “the demand is such that we are working 24 hours a day, we are recruiting employees and we are looking for them”, she emphasizes.

#On #November 18, barely ten months after deciding to embark on the adventure, #BioNTech announced with its #American partner #Pfizer that its vaccine was 95% safe and effective.

A level similar to that of the #American firm #Moderna with which he competes to develop the technique known as #Messenger RNA. The world is regaining a little confidence in the future, sees the end of the tunnel.


AFP

#But in #Mainz, there is no question of giving in to the euphoria. #To celebrate this event, the Türeci-Sahin couple therefore allow themselves … a cup of tea.

“#Champagne is not our thing”

#Anyway, “champagne isn’t our thing,” jokes #Mr. #Sahin.

#While blowing on their drink, these two fifties, children of #Turkish immigrants, “think of everything that has happened so far and what will now happen”.

600 km away, in the #German capital, retired firefighter #Albrecht #Broemme, a sturdy 66-year-old guy with salt and pepper hair, is busy with … a box of #Lego.

#Responsible for supervising the six vaccination centers that #Berlin wants to set up as part of a national campaign, he is building a mini-vaccination station with a registration counter and traffic lanes.


#Ex-firefighter #Albrecht #Broemme. #Photo AFP

“I thought about a system while thinking (…) of the necessary spaces so as not to create a traffic jam”, he explains in front of the old #Tegel airport, one of the places where #Berliners will be injected the vaccine.

64 cabins, 7000 injections per day

#Some 450 vaccination centers are located across the country. The largest, located in #Hamburg, will be able to perform up to 7,000 injections per day in the 64 cabins provided for this purpose.

#In #Hamburg as in #Berlin, all visitors will have to follow a circuit, from identity verification to the actual vaccination. The injection will be preceded by a medical consultation and, at the end of the chain, “a waiting room” will be there to check that the whole operation has gone well.

#We imagine that in all this will take an hour

#Albrecht #Broemme ex-firefighter in charge of vaccination centers

#On #December 2, the #United #Kingdom becomes the first #Western country to grant emergency authorization for the #BioNTech / #Pfizer vaccine. #And begins to vaccinate on the 8th.


#On #December 8, the first vaccination in the #United #Kingdom. AFP #Photo

#Other countries follow: the #United #States, #Saudi #Arabia, #Singapore. #Germany, cradle of the vaccine and hit hard by a second wave of contamination, is growing impatient.

#She is pushing for the regulatory authority, the #European #Medicines #Agency (EMA) to speed up its decision-making, then scheduled for #December 29 at the latest. The EMA gives the green light on the 21st.

The #European #Union announces in the wake that the vaccination campaign will begin on #December 27.

#In the center of #Hamburg, health authorities say they are ready while #BioNTech organizes online training with doctors and nurses. The company answers more than a thousand questions from medical players.

#Armed policemen

The first trucks loaded with vaccine doses leave #Pfizer’s production center in #Belgium on #Wednesday.


AFP

#In particular, they are sent to the 25 distribution centers designated by the #German federal authorities which will then transport them to the 294 districts of the country, according to #BioNTech.

#Germany extremely damaged by the second wave

#All along the route, armed police escort the convoys. #Germany fears possible sabotage as the sling of “anti-vaccine” and those who do not believe in the existence of the virus has grown since the summer.

#First, the vaccine must be injected into the arm of the most vulnerable people, those over 80 years old.

#Germany, which had managed the first wave well, is now overtaken by the second: it is recording new records of contamination and deaths day after day.


AFP

The second wave has already killed nearly three times as many patients as in the spring.

#For #Chancellor #Angela #Merkel, each injection represents a life saved. “#When you see the number of people who have died from this virus, you see how many lives the vaccine can save.”

#First vaccinated, #Edith #Kwoizallan 101 years old

#As every day counts, officials at a retirement home in #Halberstadt, to the east, decided to start immunizing on #Saturday, reserving the honor for #Edith #Kwoizalla, a 101-year-old resident, to be the first to receive the vaccine.


#Edith #Kwoizalla, 101 years old. AFP #Photo

The official launch of the campaign is scheduled for #Sunday across the country, and in other states of the #European #Union.

#And at their breakfast table, Özlem Türeci and #Ugur #Sahin might enjoy another cup of tea.



[ source link ]
https://www.republicain-lorrain.fr/sante/2020/12/31/coronavirus-la-belle-aventure-humaine-derriere-le-vaccin-du-geant-pfizer

#great #human #adventure #vaccine #giant ##Pfizer

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