Pfizer has confirmed it is planning to temporarily slow deliveries of its coronavirus vaccine to Europe while it focuses on upscaling its manufacturing facilities.
The pharmaceutical company, which has partnered with Germany’s BioNTech to make the vaccine, said the upgraded capacity would make it easier to reach its target of producing two billion doses a year.
Line Fedders, a spokeswoman for Pfizer Denmark, said the work would include “adaptation of facilities and processes at the factory” in Puurs, Belgium, “which requires new quality tests and approvals from the authorities”.
She added this would temporarily result in “fewer doses” being available for countries in Europe “at the end of January and the beginning of February”.
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The confirmation on Friday came after both Norway and Lithuania revealed Pfizer was cutting supply to the continent – with the latter saying it had been told deliveries would be halved until mid-February.
“The manufacturer told us the cuts are EU-wide,” said Lithuanian health ministry spokesman Vytautas Beniusis.
Norway said it would be receiving 36,075 doses in its third week, instead of an expected 43,875, and Finnish broadcaster YLE said a delay would be down to domestic delivery issues.
Governments of at least six Nordic and Baltic nations have called the situation “unacceptable”, while Germany’s health ministry said it received the announcement “with regret”.
Meanwhile, the European Union has said the Commission is “ready to support and facilitate contacts” between Pfizer and member states, but stressed questions about production and capacity should be directed to the US company itself.
Timetabling and delivery of the doses are the responsibility of the 27 individual state heads, while deal negotiations are carried out by the Commission. It recently secured 600 million extra doses on behalf of the bloc.
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Later on Friday, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she had spoken to Pfizer’s chief executive and had been reassured that all guaranteed doses for the first quarter of the year would also be delivered in the first quarter.
She added: “He is personally on the case on reducing the delay period and to make sure that they will catch up as soon as possible.”
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