Pfizer-BioNTech Revamp Delays Europe’s doses

19.01.2021 - US drugmaker Pfizer and partner BioNTech have confirmed they will temporarily reduce Covid deliveries to Europe as Pfizer revamps its designated plant in Belgium to lift production capacity to 2 billion doses per year, as announced earlier.

The move will affect all EU member states and delay already finalized vaccination schedules for an estimated three to four weeks. Germany’s health ministry it regretted the decision, noting that the companies had made binding delivery commitments.

Mainz, Germany-based BioNTech has hinted that it could potentially take some of the pressure off the Pfizer site when it ramps up production at a Marburg, Germany, facility acquired last year from Novartis.

Brazil Approves AZ and Sinovac Covid Vaccines

At a special meeting on Sunday, Jan. 17, Brazil’s drugs regulator Anvisa granted emergency use authorization for the Covid-19 vaccines made by AstraZeneca/Oxford University and China’s Sinovac Biotech.

Due to soaring infections, vaccinations with Sinovac’s CoronaVac shot began immediately. At present, however, only Sinovac’s CoronaVac is available for deployment due to logistical problems and other delays.

While Anvisa said more information is needed about both shots, rapporteur Meiruze Freitas pointed to the lack of alternatives for treatment of the disease. “We must continue monitoring the vaccines to capture adverse effects that were perhaps not seen in trials,” she said.

Although on the approval date Brazil was ranked third globally in terms of Covid cases and second only to the US in number of deaths from the virus, South America’s most populous country has been slow to begin its immunization program for the country’s 212 million citizens.

According to reports, Sao Paulo state has received 11 million doses of the Sinovac shot, which is being produced in partnership with local research institute Butantan, but AstraZeneca’s local production partner Fiocruz has experienced logistics problems. 

Brazil is also is said to have signed on for the Russian vaccine Sputnik V but, quoting Anvisa, the Bloomberg news agency said local drugmaker Uniao Quimica had filed inadequate paperwork in its request for Phase 3 clinical studies, which means it doesn’t fulfil the minimum requirement for emergency use authorization.

Bayer may produce CureVac’s vaccine  

Bayer CEO Werner Baumann meanwhile has told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that it, too, might be able to take up some of the slack in vaccine deliveries. The pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals giant recently agreed to cooperate with Tübingen-based biotech CureVac, which is developing a Covid-19 vacuum under the name CVnCoV.

Baumann said Bayer is in discussions with CureVac and German authorities about the plans. “With our production network in Germany and the US, we could be in a position to produce vaccines in large volumes, with a certain amount of lead time,” he remarked.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist