Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla launched the Greek edition of his book describing his company’s race to develop the first COVID-19 vaccine in Thessaloniki on Friday.
The book, titled “Moonshot: Inside Pfizer’s Nine-Month Race to Make the Impossible Possible,” provides an exclusive, first-hand, behind-the-scenes story of how the pharmaceutical giant raced to create the vaccine.
Bourla’s book describes how the impossible became possible
The book recounts the intensive nine months of 2020 when the scientists at Pfizer, under the visionary leadership of Bourla, made “the impossible possible” — creating, testing, and manufacturing a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine that would have previously taken years to develop.
Bourla chronicles how the brilliant, dedicated minds at Pfizer, under the enormous strains of the global pandemic, overcame a series of crises that were compounded by social and political unrest. He reveals the doubts, decisions, obstacles, and failures they encountered.
As Bourla clarifies Pfizer’s success wasn’t due to luck; it was because of preparation driven by four simple values—courage, excellence, equity, and joy.
He explains, “I am sharing the story of our moonshot—the challenges we faced, the lessons we learned, and the core values that allowed us to make it happen—in hopes that it might inspire and inform your own moonshot, whatever that may be.”
Bourla chose his hometown Thessaloniki for the book launch
Pfizer’s CEO chose Thessaloniki, his hometown, for the launch of the Greek edition. Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis was among those to attend the launch.
The book describes, Mitsotakis said, “how we overcame a global health crisis, and it shows that even the most complex and difficult obstacles are overcome with faith in certain principles, by operating truthfully, with stability and efficiency, with a plan, in a spirit of cooperation, and ultimately within a context defined by solidarity and joint effort, persevering through difficulties.”
Moreover, he observed, “these fascinating adventures of the author himself essentially describe the example of the timeless and resourceful Ulysses, the one who always turns trials into successes, who travels everywhere but has his eyes fixed on Ithaca. In the case of Albert, Ithaca is Thessaloniki,” he said.
Finally, Mitsotakis said Bourla is “a true Greek at heart,” and pointed out that it is no accident that Pfizer decided to set up its Digital Innovation Centre in the city of Thessaloniki, “which employs almost 700 Greeks, many of whom returned to their home city from abroad.”
Bourla’s harrowing story of when Thessaloniki was occupied by the Nazis
A descendant of the Jews of Greece’s second-largest city, Bourla’s ancestors, like those of almost all the Thessaloniki Jews, had come to the country after the edict of 1492 in Spain.
Invited to live in the country by the Ottoman overlords at the time, they put down roots and actually flourished there in peace and freedom for centuries until Nazis occupied the city.
As many as 48,000 Thessalonians of Jewish heritage were deported from their home city never to return during World War II. A small remnant of 2,000 people still live there today, however — the descendants of those fortunate enough to have hidden or escaped the clutches of their occupiers.
Bourla has related the harrowing story of his family during the war and has told the world that if it hadn’t been for his mother and father hiding and escaping execution at the last minute, he wouldn’t be here today.