Pfizer cuts vaccine deliveries by half to some EU countries

Published January 22, 2021
This file illustration photo taken on November 17 shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer. — AFP/File
This file illustration photo taken on November 17 shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer. — AFP/File

BUCHAREST: Pfizer has slashed in half the volume of Covid-19 vaccines it will deliver to some EU countries this week, government officials said on Thursday, as frustration over the US drugmaker’s unexpected cut in supplies grows.

Romania will get 50 percent of its planned volume this week and supplies will only improve gradually, with deliveries not returning to normal until the end of March, Deputy Health Minister Andrei Baciu said.

It was a similar situation in Poland, which on Monday received 176,000 doses, a drop of around 50 percent from what was expected, authorities said.

The Czech government was bracing for disruption to supplies last week, slowing its vaccination campaign just as the second dose of vaccinations get under way.

“We have to expect that there will be a reduction in the number of open vaccination appointments in the following three weeks,” Health Minister Jan Blatny told reporters on Thursday, with Pfizer deliveries falling by about 15 percent this week and as much as 30 percent for the following two weeks.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have declined to comment on the cuts beyond their statement last week, which announced cuts to deliveries as they ramp up manufacturing in Europe.

Some countries reckon they can handle it. Norway has an emergency stockpile and will continue administering doses as planned, the government’s public health body said.

The US drugmaker has told Bulgaria and Poland it will replace missing doses, top officials said.

But Denmark’s Serum Institute said its 50 percent loss of shots this week would lead to a 10 percent shortfall for the first quarter.

With governments across the region still reeling from the surprise cuts, officials say the reductions are undermining their efforts to inoculate their citizens.

On Wednesday, Italy threatened legal action against Pfizer.

In Hungary, where the authorities gave the go ahead for the use of Britain’s AstraZeneca and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines ahead of the EU drug regulator, a senior official called on Brussels to try and ensure deliveries from Pfizer and other vaccine makers would stick to schedule.

“We would be happy if the (European) Commission could take steps as soon as possible to ensure that Pfizer and other manufacturers would change deliveries,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbans chief of staff Gergely Gulyas said.

The problem has spread to countries outside the trading bloc too - Canada is facing delays as is Switzerland, where the mountain canton of Grisons got only 1,000 shots from Pfizer this week, far short of the 3,000 it had been anticipating.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2021

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