The direction of the Pfizer laboratory has ensured that the doses of its covid-19 vaccine expected by the EU in the first quarter of this year will be delivered within the agreed deadline, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday.
Due to the announcement of production delays, “I called the general manager of Pfizer (…). He assured me that all guaranteed doses for the first quarter will be delivered” by that time, Von der Leyen told a news conference in Lisbon.
According to the director, the director of Pfizer “is personally committed to the plan to reduce the delay period and ensure that deliveries recover the pace as quickly as possible”.
According to Von der Leyen, it is “important to get the message across that we urgently need guaranteed doses”.
The pharmaceutical giant confirmed on Friday that there would be delays in the delivery of doses confirmed due to works at a production plant in Belgium, started to meet demand.
“Pfizer is working hard to deliver more doses than originally planned this year with a stated new target of 2 billion doses in 2021,” the group justified in a message sent to AFP
The company pointed out that changes in the vaccine production process “require additional regulatory approvals” and can lead to “fluctuations in order and delivery times at the Puurs plant” in Belgium.
In total, advance orders from Brussels to Pfizer / BioNTech represent 500 million doses, with an option of an additional 100 million.
As the two doses should be administered within a few weeks of each other, “there is a medical need to adhere to the program we have agreed to and to guarantee deliveries” as planned, Von der Leyen said.
– “Deep concern” -The announcement generated concern in the block. The German government, which announced that vaccine delivery will be delayed “by 3 to 4 weeks”, criticized an “unexpected” announcement and asked Brussels for guarantees of “clarity and safety”.
Norway, which is not part of the EU but of the Commission’s joint purchase of vaccines, calculated in turn that the delay would represent an 18% reduction in the volume of doses originally planned.
In a context of criticism for the slowness of the vaccination campaign, six European health ministers signed on Friday a letter in which they expressed their “deep concern” about the delay in vaccine deliveries from Pfizer and BioNTech.
Ministers from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Sweden protested in a joint letter, in which they stressed that the situation is “unacceptable” and that “it diminishes the credibility of the vaccination process”.
At a press conference with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa – whose country took over the rotating EU presidency on January 1 – Von der Leyen endeavored to allay the concerns of these six countries.
“This is not the first time that a company has announced delivery delays for a brief period (…), others have had to delay sending their vaccine to the European Medicines Agency,” he said.
Von der Leyen, who reduced the delay, recalled that the vaccine card negotiated by the Europe Commission represents more than 2 billion doses.