WASHINGTON — Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of American business is “competitive,” Suzanne Clark, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday.

“Competition is how we build our country, make it exceptional and move it forward,” said Clark, who heads the country’s largest lobbying group for businesses.

Clark delivered her message Tuesday morning during the chamber’s annual State of American Business address on how competition will continue to shape the new economic era for American businesses as they grapple with pandemic-induced challenges.

From the “great resignation” to trade battles with China, 2022 will be a pivotal year for U.S. employers and employees, Clark said.

Pfizer Chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla also spoke, detailing his company’s leadership in fighting the pandemic.

“There are raw materials that were needed for this vaccine, and very few could supply those materials,” said Bourla, whose remarks came one day after announcing that a vaccine that targets the highly transmissible COVID-19 Omicron variant would be ready by March.

Pfizer faces competition against fellow pharmaceutical giant Moderna, which announced Monday that its booster shot that targets the Omicron variant will be ready by fall.

Both drug manufacturers, however, still possess significant influence over creating and distributing of their respective Messenger RNA, or mRNA, vaccines presently in use.

Despite calls to share their COVID-19 vaccine formulas with manufacturers in countries with low vaccination rates, Pfizer and Moderna have not licensed them out, instead opting to provide the U.S. government millions of doses to donate to less economically developed countries.

Still, only 8.9% of individuals in low-income countries however have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, according to University of Oxford’s Our World in Data.

“The race to distribute them worldwide must continue with urgency,” Clark said in her speech.

Separately, Pfizer has agreed to voluntarily license out its COVID-19 oral antiviral treatment Paxlovid royalty-free. The combination of two tablets, indicated for treatment of mild-to-moderate disease in those at least 12 years old, received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in late December.

As the pandemic continues, and Pfizer and Moderna offer only a limited supply of their vaccines to under-immunized nations, a new patent-free COVID vaccine soon may shift the narrative in the battle against the virus.

The CORBEVAX vaccine, developed in Texas with decades-old technology, is to be available soon in countries like India that have faced the brunt of the pandemic.

Its creators, who do not own the vaccine’s intellectual property, aim for CORBEVAX to be a major step in the battle for equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines.

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