Vaccination against Covid-19 in a retirement home in Leuven, Belgium, in December 2020. -
Johanna Geron / AP / SIPA
The European Union recognized on Saturday a "global insufficiency" in the production capacities of vaccines against the Covid-19, while saying "ready to help" to increase them, according to the Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides.
The start of the vaccination against the coronavirus epidemic is the subject of criticism across Europe - especially in France, where the slowness of the process is alarming and where Emmanuel Macron has promised to fight against any "unwarranted slowness" of the campaign , and in Germany, where doctors deplore that hospital staff are not given priority due to a lack of sufficient doses.
“These difficulties, for the time being, are not due to the volume of orders but to the insufficiency of production capacities on a global scale.
And this is the case for BioNTech ”, explained the European Commissioner in an interview with the German agency DPA distributed by her services.
After initially ordering 200 million doses of the vaccine developed by the American Pfizer and the German BioNTech in November, the EU has exercised an option to purchase an additional 100 million for 2021.
"The situation will improve little by little"
The vaccination campaign started last weekend in the 27 countries of the EU, after the green light from Brussels at the end of December for this vaccine, the first authorized in the Union.
"The EU provided funding to BioNTech early on, 100 million euros to develop its production capacities […] The situation will improve little by little," says Stella Kyriakides.
"We are again ready to help increase production capacities," she insisted.
BioNTech intends to run a new manufacturing unit in Marburg (Germany) in February, capable of providing 250 million additional doses in the first half of 2021,
the co-director of the laboratory, Ugur Sahin
This German site will strengthen the Belgian plant in Puurs, where batches destined for the EU are produced.
BioNTech said it has also signed contracts with five pharmaceutical manufacturers in Europe to increase production.
Negotiations are continuing with other specialized companies, said the biotech.
"Other manufacturers are on the verge of having their vaccines approved"
Besides Pfizer-BioNTech, the EU has concluded five other contracts (AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi-GSK, Moderna and CureVac), and is considering signing one with Novavax.
“Other manufacturers we have contracts with are on the verge of having their vaccines approved by the EU,” said Stella Kyriakides.
“We agreed in the EU not to put all our eggs in one basket […].
If all these vaccines in development are approved, the EU will have more than 2 billion doses available for all 450 million Europeans and their neighbors, ”she underlined.
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