The German biotech company BioNTech has estimated it would be able to produce "2 billion doses" of the Covid-19 vaccine by the end of 2021, significantly more than the previous target of 1.3 billion doses.
The German SME, associated with the American giant Pfizer, reached this new estimate by taking into account the "new standard" allowing to administer 6 doses per vial instead of 5, according to its website.
BioNTech is also counting on the "expansion of its current facilities" expected at the end of February, which would include another European production site in Marburg, Germany. This new plant, described as a "major turning point" by the company, will add "up to 750 million doses" to annual production capacity.
The quantity of doses available is one of the major challenges of a worldwide Covid-19 vaccination strategy.
The Marburg site, the second in Germany, could already supply 250 million additional doses in the first half of the year, reinforcing the Belgian plant in Puurs where batches for the EU are currently produced.
The German-American alliance also has three production sites in the United States.
Today's announcement comes as the European Commission in Brussels announced on Wednesday a new agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech, providing for a firm pre-order of 200 million additional doses of their Covid vaccine, with an option for an additional 100 million doses.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said last Friday that six doses per vial of Pfizer/BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine can be extracted with appropriate syringes, increasing the capacity to use the vaccines already ordered.
This procedure had already been used in Belgium, meaning that out of the 350,000 doses delivered to Belgium this month, around 70,000 more doses were made available.
The launch of the vaccination is being criticized in several European countries -- notably in France, where the campaign has started very slowly, and in Germany, where doctors complain that hospital staff are not being given priority because of a lack of sufficient doses.
The Brussels Times