Vaccine Shortfall to Hit Europe, Canada as Pfizer Plant Is Upgraded
By Bojan Pancevski
The European Union, Canada and some other countries will receive
fewer doses next week of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Pfizer Inc.
and BioNTech SE due to an upgrade at Pfizer's European factory, the
companies said Friday, adding to concerns about the slow pace of
the global vaccine rollout.
The delay won't affect the U.S., which is supplied by a Pfizer
factory in Michigan, the company said, while all other nations are
served by the pharma giant's factory in Puurs, Belgium, which is
Governments in Europe, which are struggling with stubbornly high
Covid-19 case numbers and a glacial vaccine rollout, reacted with
dismay. In an open letter to the companies, the health ministers of
Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia said the
incident was unacceptable and risked undermining the credibility of
the vaccine rollout, which is already facing public distrust.
The German government said in a statement that it deplored what
it called the short notice and unexpected news, noting that Pfizer
was failing to meet a contractual obligation.
"The company has made a binding commitment to a delivery
schedule until mid-February," the statement said.
Representatives for Pfizer and BioNTech said the delay would
involve a week starting Monday, during which a production line
would be expanded to be able to produce more doses. In the
following week supply would resume according to schedule, and after
that the companies would in fact overdeliver on their contractual
obligations, a BioNTech spokeswoman said.
"We will be back to the original schedule of deliveries to the
European Union beginning the week of Jan. 25, with increased
delivery beginning the week of February 15 resulting in our ability
to deliver the fully committed quantity of vaccine doses in the
first quarter and significantly more in the second quarter," the
BioNTech spokeswoman said
The new schedule would be communicated to the EU and other
countries over the weekend, she added.
Some countries, such as Norway, which isn't in the EU but has
purchased its vaccines via the bloc, have been stockpiling doses
for such an emergency, and now plan to use that reserve, according
to government officials.
Canada's procurement minister, Anita Anand, told reporters that
Pfizer had informed her on Thursday night that retooling at its
European factory to meet global demand would affect near-term
"This is going to be temporary. It will not be a loss," said Ms.
Anand, who has led national efforts to secure a supply of Covid-19
BioNTech announced earlier in the week that it had finalized
contracts with several European companies that would enter its
supply chain and help boost production by hundreds of millions of
The company also said that its new factory in the German city of
Marburg was cleared for use by authorities on Friday. The factory,
set to come online in February, will be able to produce over 750
million doses a year.
Write to Bojan Pancevski at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 15, 2021 16:21 ET (21:21 GMT)
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