Pfizer’s local general manager Nicolás Vaquer visited the presidential residence in Olivos on what was a holiday weekend in Argentina to tell President Alberto Fernández that Pfizer will carry out trials of its Covid-19 vaccine candidates in the country, generating a flurry of media hype.

Pfizer’s office in Argentina has jumped the gun on the next round of clinical trials of its potential Covid-19 vaccines being developed with Germany’s BioNTech. Despite approval still yet to be granted, the local office has begun hyping the apparent selection of Argentina as one of the global locations for phase 2/3 clinical trials expected to start late this month.

Local media has pounced on the story, treating it as a major coup for the country and having something of a field day speculating on why the multinational might select Argentina for such an important trial, regardless of the fact that according to an interview with Pfizer’s global CEO Albert Bourla in Time magazine, the trials will be held at 150 locations around the world. See interview in Time.

Despite the hype, including a meeting between Pfizer’s general manager in Argentina Nicolás Vaquer and Argentina’s president Alberto Fernández, a trial of Pfizer and BioNtech’s mRNA-based vaccine candidates has yet to be authorised by Argentina’s regulator, ANMAT.  Argentina’s Minister for Health Ginés González García has said an application has not yet been presented.

The story was lapped up by local press as a triumph for the country despite neighbouring Brazil already hosting trials for two leading vaccine contenders by Sinovac and the UK’s AstraZeneca.

The triumphant stories also seem to ignore that multiple clinical trials are held in the country for all kinds of potential medicines all year round.

Pfizer and BioNTech have several vaccine candidates among the more than 160 potential Covid-19 vaccines currently in development internationally. They’ve gained fast track status from the FDA and inclusion in the US government’s Operation Warp Speed accelaration programme, but are widely viewed to remain behind Moderna, Cansino, Sinopharm, AstraZeneca and Sinovac in the race to develop the first vaccine. See WHO list of vaccines.

In a spot of regional competition, Brazil is already hosting trials for those two latter drugmakers. Its regulator ANVISA last month approved phase 3 trials of AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate developed by the University of Oxford on the condition that the Brazilian government receive 100 million doses of the vaccine through supplies and transfer of technology.

On July 3, it gave the green light to Sinovac for phase 3 clincal trials via state-owned Instituto Butantan  with 9,000 subjects from five Brazilian states.

Argentine media have speculated that the announcement from the local office of Pfizer could mean that the country will have preferential access to the vaccine if it’s successful, but that seems unlikely, with the US set to snap up doses through its contributions in Operation Warp Speed. Questioned on the matter on television by local journalist Rosario Ayerdi, Vaquer merely referred to «global supply challenges.»

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