Paul Mensah is a chemical engineer and vice president of the bioprocess research and development division at Pfizer in St. Louis.
He led the team that developed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is 95 percent effective against the coronavirus and was based in St. Louis and Andover, Massachusetts.
In an interview with St. Louis Public Radio’s Marissanne Lewis-Thompson, he mentioned that history of clinical experimentation with Black people in particular, especially the Tuskegee experiment, is one of the reasons why Black people have been wary of vaccines and pharmaceutical companies in general.
His contribution is particularly important in restoring confidence and assuaging fears about the vaccine among people of color.
“I was just ecstatic and relieved,” he said in the interview. “This product has been the focus of a team of people who have been working nonstop. And you never know if anything would work while you work on it.”
“And we had no expectation that it would be 95% successful…”
You want to work on projects that have a significant impact. This one, though, has a particularly large effect because it is not a minor patient. Every single person on the planet — every single person on the planet — is a patient.”