KALAMAZOO — Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced Tuesday the first participants have been dosed in the U.S. in a clinical trial for the BNT162 vaccine program to prevent COVID-19 infection.

The company also announced a portion of the vaccine will be manufactured in West Michigan. Pfizer’s plant in Portage, a suburb of Kalamazoo, will be used in addition to facilities in Massachusetts, Missouri and Belgium.

Pfizer officials said the production will lead to millions of vaccine doses being distributed in 2020 and hundreds of millions in 2021.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer commended the company’s decision to manufacture part of the vaccine in Michigan.

“This is great news for our families, our neighbors, and those serving on the front lines during this crisis,” she said in a statement. “COVID-19 has shown how vulnerable our country is when it comes to supply chain and much of the lifesaving materials we need are manufactured out of the country.

“That’s why we are so proud that one of the largest pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities in the world is the Pfizer site right here in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In fact, Michigan has a strong history of vaccine development with the polio and anthrax vaccines. Pfizer is a great partner and the state of Michigan and our strong manufacturing roots stand ready to serve.”

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, also applauded the decision. Upton represents much of southwest Michigan, including Kalamazoo in Congress.

“I am delighted Pfizer recognized this Kalamazoo workforce and facility to do such important work,” he said in a statement. “The entire industry is working together and committed to develop and produce a vaccine as quickly as possible.

“We know that a vaccine is the only true way for us to get back to normal and begin on our road to recovery. That recovery begins with Pfeizer’s exciting developments here in Kalamazoo.

“Finding a vaccine is critical to winning the war against the coronavirus, which is why we allocated more than $4.5 billion under the CARES Act to help accelerate COVID-19 related diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. We are all wishing for the best here and will closely monitor Pfizer’s progress.”

COVID-19 cases in Michigan
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State reports 447 new COVID-19 cases

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 447 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, along with 44 new deaths.

According to MDHHS, eight of the 44 deaths were found in a review of prior death records.

Michigan now has 44,397 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,179 deaths.

Ionia County has 93 confirmed cases of COVID-19, along with two previously reported deaths, per MDHHS.

— Contact reporter Arpan Lobo at alobo@hollandsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @arpanlobo.