Charles Pfizer and his cousin Charles F. Erhart, both from Ludwigsburg, Germany, founded Pfizer in New York City in 1849. They launched the chemicals business, Charles Pfizer and Company, at Bartlett Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where they produced an antiparasitic called santonin. This was an immediate success, although it was the production of citric acid that led to Pfizer's growth in the 1880s. Pfizer continued to buy property to expand its lab and factory. Pfizer's original administrative headquarters was at 81 Maiden Lane in Manhattan.
Some key dates in Pfizer's long and rich history include:
- 1849 - Charles Pfizer & Company opens as a fine-chemicals business. A modest red-brick building in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York, serves as office, laboratory, factory, and warehouse. The company's first product is santonin — a palatable antiparasitic which is an immediate success.
- 1862 - Demand for painkillers, preservatives, and disinfectants soared as the Civil War engulfed the nation. To help meet the needs of the Union Army, Pfizer expanded production, not only of tartaric acid, (used as a laxative and skin coolant) and cream of tartar, (effective as both a diuretic and cleansing agent), but of other drugs Union doctors used to treat sick and wounded soldiers. Among these were Iodine, Morphine, Chloroform, camphor, and mercurials, which, in addition to medicinal applications, were used in the emerging field of photography, the new medium photographer Matthew Brady employed to chronicle the Civil War.
- 1880 - Using imported concentrates of lemon and lime, Pfizer begins manufacturing citric acid, which becomes the company's main product and the launching pad of its growth in the decades that follow.
- 1891 - On December 27, co-founder Charles Erhart dies and leaves a partnership worth $250,000 to his son William. However, the agreement stipulates that Charles Pfizer can buy William Erhart's share at half its inventory value — an option Charles Pfizer quickly exercises, consolidating ownership of the company in his hands.
- 1928 - When bacteriologist Alexander Fleming discovered the germ-killing properties of the "mold juice" secreted by penicillium, he knew that it could have profound medical value. But Fleming could not make enough penicillin to be useful in practice, and his discovery was dismissed as a mere laboratory curiosity. A decade would pass before a team of scientists at Oxford University rediscovered Fleming's work and revived research into the bacteria-killing mold. Although there was growing evidence of penicillin's effectiveness, the British, who were by then under bombardment as World War II raged, were unable to carry out the necessary research. The Oxford team turned to America for help. Inspired by the possibility of saving lives and of producing the world's first "wonder drug," Pfizer offered its assistance.
- 1944 - Using deep-tank fermentation, Pfizer is successful in its efforts to mass-produce penicillin and becomes the world's largest producer of the "miracle drug." Most of the penicillin that goes ashore with Allied forces on D-Day is made by Pfizer.
In July 2020, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that two of the partners' four mRNA vaccine candidates had won fast track designation from the FDA.The company began Phase 3 testing in the last week of July 2020 on 30,000 people and was slated to be paid $1.95 billion for 100 million doses of the vaccine by the United States government.The U.S. deal priced two doses at $39 and the company stated that it would not lower the rates for other countries until the outbreak is no longer a pandemic. Pfizer's CEO stated the companies in the private sector producing a vaccine should make a profit.
In September 2020, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that they had completed talks with the European Commission to provide an initial 200 million vaccine doses to the EU, with the option to supply another 100 million doses at a later date.
In October 2020, it was reported that Pfizer would start testing the COVID-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech on a broader range of subjects including children as young as 12. This would be the first coronavirus vaccine trial to include children in the United States.
On November 9, 2020, Pfizer announced that the vaccine had a nearly 95% efficacy rate with no serious side effects. On November 20, 2020, Pfizer applied for Emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for the vaccine. On December 2, 2020, the United Kingdom granted emergency use authorization to Pfizer's vaccine, becoming the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine that had been tested in a "large clinical trial" of "43,000 people".
On December 4, 2020, Bahrain became the second country to approve emergency use of the Covid-19 vaccine for high-risk groups and later announced that the vaccine would be provided free to the public.
On December 8, 2020, Britain began initial distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine. On December 9, 2020, British regulators told hospitals not to give the Pfizer vaccine to people prone to "serious" allergic reactions, after two National Health Service staffers had symptoms of "anaphylactoid reaction".
Also on December 9, 2020, Canada became the third country to approve Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, initially purchasing 20M doses and preserving the option to purchase up to 56M additional doses. An initial delivery of 249,000 doses was planned for December with up to 4M more doses planned for delivery by March 2021.
On December 10, 2020, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held an advisory committee meeting to discuss authorization of the vaccine. An independent panel voted 17-4 in support of the FDA approving the vaccine. On the same day, Saudi Arabia approved the vaccine, becoming the 4th country to do so. The next day, December 11, 2020, the United States officially became the 5th country to approve use of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine. The FDA granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and under the United States agreement with Pfizer, Pfizer agreed to an initial distribution of 2.9 million doses on an immediate basis and 100 million doses through March 2021, with the United States providing the vaccine free to the public.