Vaccine shortage: Damage will be limited, says expert
Saturday, 16 January 2021
The delay caused to the planned vaccination of the population will be ‘limited’ by the delivery next week of only 60,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine instead of the 100,000 expected, epidemiologist Yves Coppieters said.
This week Pfizer announced it was upgrading its production facility in Puurs in Antwerp province to be able to produce more doses of the vaccine, but that in the meantime production would be negatively affected.
The company predicted it would be able to provide countries all over the EU with fewer doses than expected, for a period lasting through January and February.
This morning Yves Coppieters, an epidemiologist frequently consulted by the media and professor of public health at the Free University in Brussels (ULB) said fears of running behind on the vaccination plan were exaggerated.
“The damage will be limited,” he told the RTBF. “There will be a way to make up for lost time in the following weeks. We are also expecting the arrival of doses of the Moderna vaccine. And maybe when Astra Zeneca’s vaccine is validated, those doses will also arrive in quantity.”
For the time being, Belgium is using only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the first to be approved in the EU. Moderna’s vaccine has now also been approved, and will begin to roll out from next week. Yesterday the vaccination task force said that development, together with the approval of the Astra Zeneca vaccine expected any day now, would allow Belgium to increase the rate at which the population could be vaccinated.
In the beginning, priority went to care home residents and staff – among the most vulnerable should they become infected. This coming week it is the turn of health care workers on the front line – emergency unit, intensive care and special Covid wards.
Now Pfizer has said its initial estimate that disruption of flow could last three or four weeks was excessive.
“Pfizer and BioNTech have developed a plan that will increase manufacturing capacity in Europe and deliver significantly more doses in the second quarter,” the two companies said in a joint statement.
“We will revert to the original schedule for deliveries to the European Union starting in the week of January 25, with an increase in deliveries starting the week of February 15. To do this, certain modifications to the production processes are now necessary,” the companies concluded.
The calendar, then is as follows: from Monday 18 there will be a delivery smaller than planned; from Monday 25 deliveries will go back to normal; and from February 15, deliveries can begin to increase thanks to the upgraded production at Puurs.