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Pfizer, BioNTech temporarily slow down shipments of COVID-19 vaccine to EU

'Temporary' reduction comes as companies bolster production capacity for the year

Pfizer Biontech logo

Deliveries of Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to the EU have been reduced – a situation which has Pfizer has described as ‘temporary’.

The reduction in the EU supply will enable Pfizer to increase its production capacity and meet its aim of delivering two billion vaccine doses per year, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI).

Last week, BioNTech increased the production capacity for its Pfizer-partnered COVID-19 vaccine, announcing that it now aims to deliver up to two billion doses of the jab this year.

Previously, BioNTech had planned to produce around 1.3 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021, but announced an increase in that number during a presentation at the virtual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference earlier this month.

Pfizer said in a statement issued on Friday that shipments of the vaccine doses were being impacted by changes made to its manufacturing processes – made as part of its new production capacity goal.

“Although this will temporarily impact shipments in late January to early February, it will provide a significant increase in doses available for patients in late February and March,” the company added.

Last week, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that she had spoken to Pfizer, adding that the company’s chief executive had guaranteed that all orders due for delivery in the first quarter of the year would arrive.

The Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA-based vaccine has received conditional or emergency approval in the US, UK, Europe and other countries.

In addition to affecting shipments to EU member states, Pfizer said that the changes to its production processes would also have a ‘short-term’ effect on deliveries to the UK.

On Monday, the UK’s Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC that “there are bound to be delays [in vaccine supply]. Any new manufacturing process has challenges at the outset, it is lumpy, it begins to stabilise and get better and better week in, week out”.

“The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is a messenger RNA chemical, [which is a] difficult chemical to manufacture, very challenging but they’re doing really well and they want to do more, which is why they’re reconfiguring to add volume to the whole world. That could delay supply but I’m confident we can meet our target,” he added.

The UK is aiming to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February, with priority to be given to people over the age of 70 years, healthcare workers and people who are shielding.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

18th January 2021

From: Regulatory

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