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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 6 March 2021

Pfizer and BioNTech vow to limit vaccine delays after Europe backlash

Six nations called the situation 'unacceptable' and urged the EU to take action

A nurse prepares to administer Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a hospital in Krakow, southern Poland. 
A nurse prepares to administer Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a hospital in Krakow, southern Poland. 

Pfizer and BioNTech said on Saturday they will limit the delays of their vaccine deliveries to just one week, after fears in Europe that shipments of the jabs could be slowed for up to a month.

The US drugmaker and its German partner "have developed a plan that will allow the scale-up of manufacturing capacities in Europe and deliver significantly more doses in the second quarter," they said in a joint statement.

"As a result, our facility in Puurs, Belgium will experience a temporary reduction in the number of doses delivered in the coming week.

"To accomplish this, certain modifications of production processes are required now."

Pfizer and BioNTech pledged that deliveries would be back to the original schedule to the European Union from the week of January 25, with increased delivery from the week of February 15.

It comes after six nations called the situation "unacceptable" and warned it "decreases the credibility of the vaccination process".

Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have urged the EU to apply pressure on the firms.

Pfizer had said on Friday it would delay shipments of the jabs over the next three to four weeks due to works at its key plant in Belgium.

It said the modifications at the Puurs factory were necessary in order to ramp up its production capacity from mid-February.

In hard-hit Europe, the statement raised concerns that the delays could further slow a vaccine roll-out that has already faced heavy criticism.

Six EU health ministers signed a letter to the European Commission on Friday to express "severe concern" over the delivery delays.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was developed at record-breaking speed, became the first to be approved for general use by a Western country on December 2 when Britain gave it the go-ahead.

The company has said its production upgrades would have a "short-term impact" on the delivery of vaccines to the UK.

However, the UK government said it still planned to hit its target of vaccinating all priority groups by mid-February.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Pfizer's chief executive has assured her that all orders guaranteed for delivery in the first quarter of the year would arrive.

Pfizer is due to supply the EU with 600 million doses.

Updated: January 16, 2021 08:32 PM

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