Leadership Series: A Conversation with Pfizer’s David Hering on COVID-19 vaccine development

This week State of Reform had the opportunity to speak with David Hering, Pfizer’s North American Regional President for Vaccines, as part of our virtual “Leadership Series.” During the one-on-one conversation, Hering spoke with host DJ Wilson about Pfizer’s work in developing a COVID-19 vaccine. 



Hering says it’s hard to believe how quickly COVID vaccine development has progressed in these first 6-7 months. He says the first gene sequence for COVID-19 was available in January, and Pfizer quickly began working with their partner BioNTech to develop multiple vaccine candidates and begin early clinical trials. As it stands now in mid-October, Hering says Pfizer is in the midst of a Phase 3 trial to test their vaccine’s safety and efficacy. 

He says they’re looking for interim results that Pfizer can then use to apply for either an Emergency Use Authorization and/or a license from the FDA. 

“We’re really almost at the point of getting an understanding of will the vaccine work and be safe or not. Our CEO has talked about having that data as early as the end of this month,” says Hering. “So, we all have our fingers crossed and are looking forward to seeing what the outcome is.”

When asked about the logistics of vaccine distribution and manufacturing once it is approved, Hering said first priority will go toward ensuring the most vulnerable individuals have access. This includes essential workers, health care workers, older adults, and minority populations.

I think we’ll probably be into next year of course before we have enough vaccine available by Pfizer, BioNTech, and other manufacturers that any American could go and get the vaccine and have it readily available.” says Hering. 

He says Pfizer is working to get the vaccine available as soon as possible and is on track to have tens of millions of doses available this year globally and more than a billion doses available next year. 

Wilson says he’s heard from several individuals who believe vaccine developers are on the cusp of a real leap in science, particularly as it relates to the mRNA model vaccines being developed by Pfizer and others. Hering agrees. 

The ability to basically tell your own cells to…provide antibodies for these diseases instead of having to put the actual virus, you know attenuated or other ways, into the bloodstream is a really fantastic advancement and one that should have broad applicability,” says Hering. 

He adds that it’s easier to scale up an mRNA vaccine without the same footprint needed on the manufacturing side. 

While COVID-19 vaccine development is tied up in political conversations, Hering says Pfizer has continued to rely on science. 

“Certainly the science will provide us the path forward as well as the timing. So, you really can’t rush the clinical trial,” says Hering. “We’re of course doing everything we can to get the results as quickly as possible knowing that we have people continuing to get sick and dying, and so every day matters. But that’s really the driver behind this.”

Hering’s full remarks are available above.