Pharmaceutical company Pfizer will temporarily cut supplies of its covid-19 vaccine to Europe while increasing production capacity. The authorities of several European countries stated this. The Scandinavian and Baltic health ministers have sent a letter to the European Commission expressing concerns and asking for an explanation for the move. Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the company would deliver the volume contracted for the first quarter within the promised period. The Minister of Health, Jan Blatný, stated that he was very concerned about the report on vaccine supplies restriction.
“We received this message shortly before 10:00 today. We expected 43,875 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the third week (next week). Now it looks like we will receive 36,075,” the Norwegian Institute of Public Health was the first to report a delivery restriction today. Although Norway is not part of the European Union, it works closely with it on several issues, including purchasing covid vaccines negotiated by Brussels.
The reduction in deliveries results from a decrease in Pfizer’s production. The company can increase its production capacity from the current 1.3 billion to two billion batches per year, the Norwegian institute said. According to him, the restriction will affect all European countries.
The German Ministry of Health later said that the EC and EU member states were informed by the vaccine manufacturer that “it will not fully meet the promised volume of deliveries in the next three or four weeks.
Measures to increase production at the plant in Puurs, Belgium, “will temporarily affect deliveries from late January to early February,” Pfizer told DPA today.
Pfizer and the Mainz company BioNTech said in a joint statement tonight that from the week of January 25, they will return to the “original” schedule of deliveries to the EU. From February 15, deliveries will be increased again so that the promised amount of vaccine can be delivered in the first quarter. And in the second quarter then “much more.
France will “adjust the rhythm of vaccination due to a” sharp drop “in Pfizer / BioNTech supply,” a French government source said, according to AFP. In France, 389,000 people have been vaccinated against covid so far, to vaccinate one million people by the end of January.
According to a French source, the delay will not jeopardize the vaccination campaign’s overall scope in France. The country has received 1.5 million doses of vaccine, and another 520,000 are expected next week.
Like other European countries, the French government has been criticized for the slow pace of the vaccination campaign. In France, approximately three million people have become infected with covid-19 so far, most among EU countries.
In response to the report, the health ministers of six EU countries – Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia – sent a letter to Brussels requesting that the commission contact the company immediately and ask for a public explanation.
“Not only will this affect the vaccination schedule, but it will also reduce the credibility of the whole process,” the ministers said in a letter quoted by several European media. They added that their governments support a joint EU vaccination campaign, but the 27 must avoid any delays.
Von der Leyen said today that she called Pfizer’s boss immediately after the announced restriction. “He assured me that all the benefits promised for the first quarter will be delivered in the first quarter,” she told a news conference.
At the turn of the year, the Commission faced accusations from some politicians for securing a small amount of vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, which was the first to be approved for use in the EU. The EU executive rejected the criticism, saying that the problem was insufficient production capacity of companies. Simultaneously, however, the EC doubled the contract with the American and German companies from the current 300 million benefits. The companies then decided to increase production capacity due to increased interest.
The EU has contracts with six companies for a total of 2.3 billion benefits that can be made available to 450 million people in the member states.