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Pfizer CEO projects hope on pandemic anniversary, but cautions ‘we are not out of the woods’

Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla spoke ahead of President Biden at a Pfizer manufacturing site in Portage, Mich., in February.
Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla spoke ahead of President Biden at a Pfizer manufacturing site in Portage, Mich., in February.Doug Mills/NYT

One year to the day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the chief executive of Pfizer said he’s optimistic that the world will emerge from the crisis stronger and better prepared for the future.

In an open letter published Thursday on the company’s website, Albert Bourla said that “as vaccinations accelerate around the world, you can see, hear and feel hope returning.”

“It’s the type of renewed optimism one often experiences in the spring, but this time it’s about more than leaving behind a cold winter; it’s about surviving one of the scariest periods in the history of our world,” he wrote.

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Bourla said the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is encouraging, but added that “we are not out of the woods.” He urged individuals to continue wearing masks and socially distancing until vaccinations are widespread enough to result in herd immunity. US drug regulators have authorized vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

Bourla said the death toll from the pandemic is “unfathomable and heartbreaking,” and added that the overall losses sustained in the past year go far beyond that.

“The numbers of lost jobs, shuttered family businesses, missed school days and skipped medical treatments are emotionally, physically and financially devastating,” he wrote. “It has made for an unprecedented global nightmare — one from which at times it felt we would never wake up.”

Bourla touted the efforts of drug firms like Pfizer and Moderna, which partnered with other companies, researchers, and regulators in order to develop COVID-19 vaccines at “unprecedented speed, without compromising safety or quality.”

The executive’s note comes at a time when people are reflecting upon the past year and wondering how their communities will overcome many months of health and economic devastation.

Officials in Massachusetts said on Wednesday that the state expects to receive 155,000 vaccine doses from the federal government this week. Another 95,000 first and second doses have been allocated to local pharmacies, and 19,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson shot have been allocated to federally qualified health centers.

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Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8.