Reports that pharmaceutical company Pfizer will be unable to fulfil its delivery of the new Covid-19 vaccine have met with mixed reactions from experts.
Yesterday it was confirmed that Belgium would receive only half of the 600,000 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines ordered as a first shipment for delivery in January. The company said it had experienced problems with its supply lines. All other countries with orders will also be affected.
“The expansion of the raw material supply chain took longer than expected,” the company explained in a statement. “What also had an impact was that the results of clinical trials were slightly later than initially expected, so that we had to focus more on production for these tests.”
The campaign to produce and roll out a vaccine in less than a year has been unprecedented, the company said, but the planned distribution schedule will only be disrupted in the beginning.
Yves Coppieters, epidemiologist at the Free University of Brussels (ULB) disagrees.
“This is not good news,” he told the RTBF. “It will delay the proper management of the epidemic in our country. It will force a review of the vaccination strategy.”
Dr. Yvon Englert, a former rector of the ULB and the man in charge of vaccination strategy in Wallonia, said the shortfall in January would be able to be made up in February, by which time two other vaccines, from Astra-Zeneca and from Moderna, should also be available.
Health minister Frank Vandenbroucke, meanwhile, put his trust in assurances from Pfizer, which will produce its vaccines destined for Europe from its factory in Puurs in Antwerp province.
“According to the firm’s promises, this delay will be made up for the most part – but not entirely – during the month of February,” he said. “We are doing everything we can with our colleagues in the regions and communities to be ready by January 5 if we have received the vaccines. The information provided by Pfizer will not prevent us from starting phase 1a of our vaccination plan in early January. as expected,” a spokesperson said.