Pfizer vaccine: Inside the town set to save the world
A tiny town in Belgium, which was previously most famous for producing headache-inducing beers, will be at the heart of Australia's life-saving vaccine program.
Puurs, a town of 17,000 people, is home to the Pfizer factories where Australia's supplies will be made.
The town, perfectly placed between the port of Antwerp and Brussels Airport for speed of distribution, has been working overtime to produce the groundbreaking vaccine that will unlock the globe.
However, before the pandemic, it was best known for its Duvel beer, often referred to as a "true devil" because of its 8.5 per cent alcohol content.
The town's chocolate-box pretty town centre can be walked through in about 10 minutes.
The unassuming town, which is home to a highly qualified pharmaceutical workforce, is now at the centre of the global recovery effort.
Puurs Mayor Koen Van den Heuvel has been beaming about the town's new place in the world.
"We always say, 'We're going to save the world' - that's the feeling in our town," he told CGTN.
"Pfizer accounts for 7 per cent of the total tax revenue of the local authority.When Pfizer asks for something, I will do my best to do it."
Pfizer's pulling power has meant that the company was allowed to buy a road between two of its factories for its use, and also put up two wind turbines, despite the noise complaints from local residents.
Pfizer, which took over the factories in 2002, has retooled it to make the BioNTech vaccine.
The jab uses world-first approved mRNA technology to fight coronavirus.
Turkish-born German scientists husband and wife team Ozlem Tureci and Ugur Sahin, who have become this century's equivalent to Marie and Pierre Curie, have stunned the world with their remarkable results.
The couple, who both went to work on the morning of their wedding in 2002, were able to repurpose the mRNA vaccines they had been working on for cancer to fight COVID-19.
They were able to quickly rework the vaccine and with the financial backing of Pfizer, rolled out comprehensive trials.
That proved more successful that they could have even imagined, with a two-dose regime showing a 95 per cent efficacy rate against coronavirus.
The technology behind the vaccine, approved in Australia this week, gives hope that it could be used to tackle other illnesses, including, potentially, HIV Aids.
The vaccine is produced when the mRNA is combined with a microscopic blob of fat, which the company says will make it easier to mass produce.
However, it must be stored at -70 degrees, which adds to the complexity of its roll out.
The Puurs factory was in the middle of urgent upgrades to increase its capacity, which will result in a short term hit to supplies.
However, with demand from the European Union and dozens of other countries across the world, Australia may have to wait for its full 10 million order given that cases are so much higher elsewhere.
Originally published as Pfizer vaccine: Inside the town set to save the world