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 being upgraded.

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 deliveries.

"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 vaccine.

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 doses.

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 bojan.pancevski@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 15, 2021 16:21 ET (21:21 GMT)

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