Applying the Latest Digital Technology to Optimize COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Demonstrating how Science Will Win and how Digital is helping Pfizer do it faster

The development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech on a global scale is one of the biggest public health achievements of the 21st century. Done largely at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, this could not have been accomplished without the contributions of our Digital team, led by Lidia Fonseca, Chief Digital and Technology Officer. Here, Lidia discusses the role of Digital in accelerating our efforts.

How did Digital help to transform Pfizer’s COVID-19 efforts?

What we accomplished during COVID-19 highlights how Digital can change our traditional way of working. I am very proud of how we collaborated across the company to keep our colleagues safe and accelerate the development, production, and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. None of this happened by accident. In 2019, we began our transition to the New Pfizer and embarked on a digital transformation journey. Thus, in early 2020, we were well positioned to quickly shift gears when the pandemic hit. Practically overnight, we transitioned 80 percent of our workforce to remote work to keep them safe while continuing to deliver critical medicines to patients around the world.

Photograph Lidia Fonseca, Chief Digital and Technology Officer

Lidia Fonseca, Chief Digital and Technology Officer

What role did Digital play in development of the COVID-19 vaccine?

We harnessed Digital innovation to accelerate our COVID-19 vaccine efforts. Given the need to progress the vaccine clinical trial quickly, yet without compromising the safety and well-being of the researchers and clinical trial participants, we played a key role in accelerating the clinical development of the vaccine:

  • In just four months, we scaled our clinical trial to 46,000 participants at 150 sites in six countries, and real-time predictive models of COVID-19 county-level attack rates helped the clinical development team target clinical trial site selection and optimization.
  • Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, our scientists were able to more quickly quality-check and analyze the vast amounts of data associated with the trial.
  • Remote site monitoring enabled clinical trial sites to share source documentation with site monitors, something that was previously done in person. Between March and December 2020, 75 percent of site monitoring visits for the vaccine study were conducted remotely, compliantly with applicable requirements.

How did Digital support the manufacturing and shipping of the COVID-19 vaccine?

To support the rapid manufacturing scale-up of the vaccine – over 3 billion doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine in 2021 – we deployed our first-in-industry patent-pending Digital Operations Center, providing an end-to-end view of manufacturing, allowing us to predict issues and adjust operations in real-time to meet patient supply commitments. We also deployed augmented reality to diagnose and repair equipment remotely in our labs and manufacturing sites, keeping colleagues safe and reducing travel by technicians. And, within days of the Emergency Use Authorization, we deployed end-to-end cold chain capabilities, including Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, or devices that detect and respond to changes in the environment and GPS tracking. These tools ensured cold chain integrity with real-time monitoring of shipments and temperatures anywhere in the world with close to 100 percent accuracy.