Coronavirus live news: Pfizer cuts EU vaccine deliveries temporarily; non-EU travellers can’t enter France with rapid tests | World news
EU officials have told Reuters that some member states are receiving lower-than-expected supplies of Covid vaccines and complain in internal meetings of uncertainty over future deliveries, as distribution proceeds unevenly among EU states.
Delivery of the vaccine developed by the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer with its German partner BioNTech being in the EU at the end of December. The US biotech firm Moderna started deliveries of its shot this week after the bloc approved it on 6 January.
Yet about one-third of the 27 EU governments cited “insufficient” doses of vaccines at a video-conference of health ministers on Wednesday, according to a person who attended the virtual meeting. They also complained about uncertain timetables for future deliveries, the official added, without naming any country.
Belgium has said it expects to receive only about half of the planned doses of the Pfizer vaccine in January due to a logistical issue, while Lithuania says it was told this week its supplies would be halved until mid-February.
“The manufacturer told us the cuts are EU-wide,”, Lithuanian health ministry spokesman Vytautas Beniusis told Reuters.
Lower-than-expected amounts were delivered to Italy at the beginning of January, but the issue seemed now largely resolved, an Italian official said.
Deliveries were proceeding “according to the schedule agreed”, a spokeswoman for Pfizer said. There was no production problem to report, but timelines were “aspirational” and subject to change, she added.
Pfizer and BioNTech have two contracts with the EU for the supply of up to 600m doses this year. They have agreed to deliver 75m doses in the second quarter and more later in the year. It remains unclear how many doses can be distributed in the first three months.
Moderna has committed to delivering 10m doses by the end of March and 35 million each in the second and third quarter. Another 80 million doses are also to be delivered this year but without a clear timetable yet.
The vaccine manufacturers have not published detailed calendars of deliveries for each of the 27 EU countries, which are expected to receive a portion of vaccines in proportion to their share of the EU’s 450 million population. Pfizer said the information was confidential.
“At this stage we can only confirm that the doses will be distributed on a pro-rata basis between EU countries,” a spokesman for Moderna said.
But deliveries do not seem to be proceeding evenly, according to Reuters. The German health ministry says on its website that the country, with a population of 83 million, will receive nearly 4 million Pfizer doses by the end of January.
Romania, with a population four times smaller, says it expects to receive only 600,000 doses in the same period. Bulgaria, with less than one-tenth of Germany’s population, expects to receive only about 60,000 Pfizer shots in January, proportionally much less than Germany.
Pfizer will temporarily reduce its deliveries to Europe of its Covid vaccine while it upgrades its production capacity, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said.