Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is being produced and tested in St. Louis County lab

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Pfizer is ramping up production in hopes of producing a vaccine for the coronavirus within months, the company announced this week. And the vaccine will be produced and tested in St. Louis County.

During Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s COVID-19 briefing Thursday, he was joined by Christine Smith, head of the Pfizer Biotherapeutics and Pharmaceutical Sciences Department and site head of Pfizer’s Research and Development facility in Chesterfield that opened last year.
Pfizer’s Chesterfield facility is one of three Pfizer-owned sites in the United States that has been identified as an initial manufacturing center for COVID-19 vaccine production. 

“For Missourians to feel safe going forward, we must be able to develop a COVID-19 vaccine,” Parson said. “We are proud the Pfizer facility right here in Chesterfield, Missouri, is helping lead the charge on this critically important global development.” 

This week, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, a German pharmaceutical company, began human trials for the BNT162 vaccine program to prevent COVID-19.

The trial is part of a global development program. Dosing of the first cohort in Germany was completed last week. 

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page also addressed the vaccine being produced locally in his county executive’s report at the County Council meeting Tuesday.

“I’m proud that Pfizer chose its St. Louis County facility to produce a new vaccine for COVID-19 simultaneously with the clinical trials,” Page said. “As a medical doctor I’ve seen medicine save lives, and a vaccine would truly impact us all. St. Louis County has the resources and the talent to be a leader in this effort. This is promising news not just for our region but for our  world.”

 

Christine Smith, left, a vice president at Pfizer, details the COVID-19 production and trials that will be happening at Pfizer’s Chesterfield, Missouri facility, alongside Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.

Pfizer and BioNTech are developing messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. Their development program includes four vaccine candidates, each representing a different combination of mRNA format and target antigen. 

“We are working closely with regulatory authorities to develop, test and manufacture a potential mRNA-based vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 infection at an unprecedented pace,” Smith said in the briefing. “We are leveraging our decades of scientific expertise in pioneering vaccine discovery and development to respond to this global health crisis.”

Pfizer and BioNTech are currently investigating whether the vaccine candidates will be safe and effective against COVID-19. Each of the four vaccine candidates is potentially being tested in three different doses and two different age populations in a single Phase 1/2 study.

Pfizer is scaling up methods and processes at its Chesterfield site that may be required to produce large volumes if a vaccine is approved. The company is also actively scaling up its manufacturing capacity and distribution infrastructure in Chesterfield to make the vaccine available, if shown to be safe and effective, as quickly as possible. 

Subject to technical success and regulatory approvals, the breadth of this program could allow production of millions of vaccine doses in 2020, increasing to hundreds of millions in 2021. 

Along with the Chesterfield facility, Pfizer owned-sites in Massachusetts, Michigan and Puurs, Belgium, have also been identified as manufacturing centers for COVID-19 vaccine production.

Through its existing mRNA production sites in Mainz and Idar-Oberstein, Germany, BioNTech plans to ramp up its production capacity to provide further capacities for a global supply of the potential vaccine. 

Pfizer’s R&D Building at its facility in Chesterfield.

In addition to Parson’s press briefing Thursday, the governor also visited HyVee and Orscheln Farm & Home in Jefferson City to meet with leadership and discuss the state’s “Show Me Strong Recovery” Plan.

As an essential business, Orscheln’s has been following Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention guidelines on cleaning and disinfecting and has taken steps to ensure proper social distancing can be maintained.

Similarly, grocery store HyVee has implemented several measures to improve social distancing and sanitation:

  • “Senior-shopping” from 6 a.m. – 8 a.m. 
  • Employees must wear masks/face coverings
  • One-way aisles
  • Extensive cleaning of high-touch items such as shopping carts
  • Social distancing markers and Plexiglas window panels at checkout 

HyVee’s Aisles Online program has also seen a 400-percent increase, allowing shoppers to order groceries online and pick them up at the store without leaving their vehicle.