Great Britain

Pfizer to limit vaccine deliveries temporarily to Europe

Pfizer has confirmed it will temporarily reduce deliveries of its Covid-19 vaccine to European countries.

The pharmaceutical giant said on Friday it needed to upscale production at its plant in Puurs, Belgium, to meet a new annual target of two billion doses a year.

"Adaptation of facilities and processes" at the factory means fewer doses will be available for European countries at the end of January and beginning of February, a spokesman for the company said.

"This temporary reduction will affect all European countries," added Line Fedders, of Pfizer Denmark.

The unexpected delays have been branded “unacceptable” by a number of states on the continent who are keen to ramp up their vaccination plans amid a spike in Covid-19 cases.

Six EU governments - Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia -  have asked the executive EU Commission in a letter on Friday to pressure Pfizer-BioNTech, "to ensure stability and transparency of timely deliveries" of vaccines agianst Covid-19.

"This situation is unacceptable," said the letter, which was seen by Reuters. "Not only does it impact the planned vaccination schedules, it also decreases the credibility of the vaccination process."

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Germany's health ministry said Pfizer had informed the European Commission, which was responsible for ordering vaccines from the company, that it would not be able to fulfill all of the promised deliveries in the coming three to four weeks.

The ministry said German officials took note of the unexpected announcement by the Commission " with regret" because the company had made binding delivery commitments by mid-February.

"The federal and state governments expect the EU Commission to provide clarity and certainty as soon as possible in negotiations with Pfizer about further deliveries and delivery dates," the statement said.

The Commission sealed the vaccine deals on behalf of all 27 member states, but is not responsible for the timetable and deliveries.

The Commission has secured up to 600 million extra doses of the Pfizer vaccine that's produced in partnership with Germany's BioNTech.

Norwegian authorities also said on Friday they had been notified by Pfizer about the reduction that will start next week.

"We had predicted 43,875 vaccine doses from Pfizer in week 3. Now it seems that we get 36,075 doses," said Geir Bukholm, director of infection control at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

"The stock we now have will be able to compensate for a reduction in the planned deliveries for a few weeks ahead if there is a need for this," he said.

In Finland, broadcaster YLE said the delay would cause domestic delivery problems at the end of January and the beginning of February.

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