Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines: European countries exasperated by delivery delays

A nurse receives the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19, in Poissy, on January 8.

The vaccination campaign in Europe suffered another setback on Friday January 15 when Pfizer-BioNTech announced that he would not supply the Twenty-Seven with the quantities he had promised to deliver to them each week. The laboratory invoked the need to carry out work in its Belgian factory in Puurs, in order to increase its production capacity and announced “Fluctuations in the schedules of orders and deliveries”.

An announcement that has exasperated several European countries, especially as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two injections four weeks apart, and that they now fear that they will not always be able to recall. The German government deplored “An unexpected and very short term communication” and asked the European Commission, which negotiated vaccine orders on behalf of the Twenty-Seven, for guarantees of “Clarity and security” for the rest of the process. In a joint letter on Friday afternoon, the health ministers of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Sweden, for their part, denounced a situation “Unacceptable” prejudicing the “Credibility of the vaccination process”.

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During a press conference in Lisbon, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, wanted to be reassuring. “I called the boss of Pfizer, he assured me that the deliveries which were planned for the first quarter would indeed take place in the first quarter”, she said. Before reaffirming that the contracts signed between the Commission and six laboratories (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, CureVac, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK) – if all these vaccines were to obtain a marketing authorization, they will allow Twenty-Seven to get their hands on 2.3 billion doses – constitute ” a great success “.


In her own way, however, Ursula von der Leyen made two caveats. The first was, of course, at Pfizer-BioNTech. The Commission has invested € 2.1 billion for the six laboratories to help manufacturers “Invest in their production capacity”, she recalled, “But we expect them to respect their delivery schedule”.

The second targeted Berlin, which has signed memorandums of understanding with two laboratories, Pfizer-BioNTech and CureVac, and is still discussing with Moderna, to buy them vaccines outside of contracts between the Commission and these same groups. “Because we did not want to weaken the bargaining power of 450 million European citizens”, launched the President of the European Executive, “The legal basis is very clear. No parallel negotiations, no parallel contract ”.

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