Pfizer delay will not stop UK from vaccinating top priority groups by mid-February, government says

The government says that it is still planning to vaccinate the top four priority groups by mid-February, despite expected production delays for the Pfizer vaccine.

Pfizer has confirmed it is planning to temporarily slow deliveries of its coronavirus vaccine to the UK and Europe while it focuses on upscaling its manufacturing facilities at Puurs, Belgium.

The pharmaceutical company, which has partnered with Germany’s BioNTech to make the vaccine, said the upgraded capacity would make it easier to reach its target of producing two billion doses a year.

A Pfizer spokeswoman said: “We understand a change to deliveries has the potential to create uncertainty.

“However, we can confirm the overall projected volumes of delivery to the UK remain the same for quarter one (January to March).

“We continue to liaise with the UK Government and the Vaccines Taskforce to work through short-term impact of these changes to our January deliveries and support the goals of the UK COVID-19 vaccination programme.”

Shipments of the vaccine will be affected this month but the US firm said the overall number of doses to be delivered between January and March will remain the same.

The UK has secured 40 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, but it has also approved vaccines by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna.

A government spokeswoman said: “We are in the process of understanding the implications of Pfizer’s announcement today to our plans.

“However we continue to plan to hit our target of vaccinating all four priority groups by 15 February.”

European leaders were more forthright, with the health and social affairs ministers of six EU states saying in a letter to the European Commission that the situation was “unacceptable”.

“Not only does it impact the planned vaccination schedules, it also decreases the credibility of the vaccination process,” the ministers from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia said.

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Germany, Europe’s largest purchaser of the Pfizer vaccine, called the decision surprising and regrettable, while Italy’s COVID-19 special commissioner, Domenico Arcuri, said Pfizer would from Monday cut by 29% deliveries of vaccine doses to the country.

The company had not been able to say for how long it would be curtailing its supplies, he said.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said Pfizer had reassured her that deliveries planned to the EU in the first quarter would not be delayed.

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