Vaccines – German Turkish immigrants saved us

Welcome to Episode 2 of Notes from the Sydney Lockdown. This is a random daily (or close enough to daily) diary of thoughts during the Sydney lockdown. I’ll try and focus on things that are slightly off the daily news round – but I probably won’t stray too far. I grant myself broad discretion…. Check us out on YouTube too.

We know it as the Pfizer vaccine – but should it be known as the German Turkish Immigrant vaccine? That would give everyone a better sense of the wonderful story that lies behind the world’s favourite COVID vaccine.

Here in lockdown Sydney, vaccines are at the top of the news conversation. Our lockdown has been caused by the failure of our federal government to procure enough of the Pfizer vaccine – and a string of bungles from there.

We’re still working out the best way to handle the AstraZeneca vaccine, with evolving health advice. I’ve had one AZ vaccine and I’m getting ready to front up for number two soon. I have no hesitation – despite a few serious strokes last year. Anyone who has had a serious medical condition knows that the AstraZeneca vaccine is probably the safest encounter you’ll ever have with the medical world. Most medical procedures are significantly more risky .

My favourite COVID vaccine story is the origin tale behind what we now know as the Pfizer vaccine. It doesn’t get much coverage in Australia so most people aren’t aware that this vaccine wasn’t pioneered by Pfizer at all. The correct name is the Pfizer BionTech vaccine. The BionTech name gets dropped off most of the time. But BioNTech, a German company, is behind the innovation and development of this pandemic-shifting vaccine. And BioNTech is the work of a German couple of Turkish immigrant origin. The partnership with Pfizer was created because of Pfizer’s capacity to test, manufacture and distribute at scale.

There’s something else that’s fabulous about BioNTech. This is a smallish pharmaceutical company (turnover of less than a billion US).

That a smallish pharmaceutical company might save the world from COVID is wonderful. That it be German is cool – given Trump’s hostility to Merkel and Germany. That its founders be Turkish immigrants, is exquisite. It’s a sweet story. You can hear more about it on this New York Times podcast with Kara Swisher.

The Pfizer story has been in the news this week in Australia. It’s been revealed that the CEO had a meeting with former PM Kevin Rudd who was trying to expedite the delivery of vaccine to Australia. Thank you Kevin Rudd.

Our current PM hadn’t bothered to meet with Pfizer despite our present COVID predicament. Scomo’s catalogue of failures and shiftiness is breathtaking. It’s hard to be shocked by new revelations.