The UK is among several countries facing delays in delivery of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine due to upgrades in its production capacity, the company has said.
Nadeem Badshah www.theguardian.com
The US pharmaceutical firm is increasing production at its plant in Puurs, Belgium, in an effort to produce more doses than originally planned for 2021, temporarily reducing deliveries to all European countries.
Shipments of the vaccine, produced in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech, to the UK are set to be affected this month.
The UK has secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
A government spokesperson said: “We are in the process of understanding the implications of Pfizer’s announcement today to our plans. However we continue to plan to hit our target of vaccinating all four priority groups by 15 February.”
The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is also licensed and being used in the UK.
European governments have said the credibility of their vaccination programmes are at risk due to Pfizer’s decision.
“This situation is unacceptable,” the health and social affairs ministers of six EU states – Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – said in a letter to the EU commission.
“Not only does it impact the planned vaccination schedules, it also decreases the credibility of the vaccination process.”
Germany, Europe’s largest purchaser of the vaccine, said that it regretted the “unexpected and … very short notice” announcement as the company had promised “binding delivery dates” until the middle of next month.
Norway and Lithuania had earlier said that the pharmaceutical company was reducing supplies across Europe.
“What we want is for Pfizer-BioNTech to restore their deliveries to the agreed schedule,” Lithuanian health minister Arunas Dulkys told Reuters.
A Pfizer spokesperson said: “We understand a change to deliveries has the potential to create uncertainty.
“However, we can confirm the overall projected volumes of delivery to the UK remain the same for quarter one (January to March).
“We continue to liaise with the UK Government and the Vaccines Taskforce to work through short-term impact of these changes to our January deliveries and support the goals of the UK Covid-19 vaccination programme.”
Boris Johnson said on Friday that the UK has vaccinated more than 3.2 million, with almost 45% of over-80s and 40% of care home residents receiving doses so far.
PA Media contributed to this report.