Ireland to receive vaccine boost as Pfizer increases manufacturing

EMA says the move is expected to have ‘significant and immediate impact’ on deliveries to EU

A woman receiving a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine at a vaccination centre in Garlan, western France. Photograph: Fred Tanneau/AFP via Getty Images

A woman receiving a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine at a vaccination centre in Garlan, western France. Photograph: Fred Tanneau/AFP via Getty Images

 

Ireland is expected to imminently receive a boost in Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine deliveries after the European Medicines Agency announced it had approved extra manufacturing and filling lines at the pharmaceutical company’s Belgian site.

The EU regulator said the decision would “have a significant and immediate impact on the supply of Comirnaty, the Covid-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer, in the European Union”.

The extra facilities at the factory in Puurs “enables Pfizer/BioNTech to increase the volumes of vaccines produced at this site”, the EMA said in a statement.

The increase due to Ireland will bring the number of Pfizer doses delivered to the country to roughly 2.75 million between April and the end of June, The Irish Times understands.

According to Pfizer, the acceleration in manufacturing will allow it to reach the deliveries it had already promised, meaning Ireland is about to get more doses than it has been receiving up until now.

“This is a very welcome step towards stepping up our manufacturing capacity” in the EU, European health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said, adding that it would also help in “delivering vaccines faster across the world”.

It comes as EU countries ease restrictions and prepare to reopen for travel as vaccination campaigns ramp up, with Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland issuing digital Covid vaccine certificates to their residents and accepting them from visitors as of Tuesday.

Supplier base

In a statement Pfizer said the EMA approval would help it in its efforts to “deliver more than 2.5 billion does in 2021 and potentially more in 2022”, and said it had been increasing its supplier base and contract manufacturing sites.

The company is expected to begin manufacturing a component of the Covid-19 vaccine in Dublin by the end of the year.

The EU recently finalised a deal to receive 1.8 billion doses of the Pfizer vaccine from this year until 2023, which is intended to cover the vaccination of younger groups and booster shots to cover new variants. Doses can also be resold or donated abroad.

On Friday the EMA approved the use of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 12 and up, following a similar decision in the United States. Germany has announced it will begin vaccinating children aged 12 and over from June 7th.

The World Health Organisation has called for vulnerable groups and health workers in developing countries to be given priority over younger people in wealthy countries.

Narrow the gap

Increased supply has helped the EU narrow the gap in the number of vaccinations administered compared to the US and UK. France has opened next-day vaccine appointments for all aged over 18, while in Brussels all those born by 1990 can register for last-minute appointments. The Netherlands this week began opening appointments to people born in the 1980s.

The overall EU is set to reach its goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of adults by July, according to the European Commission, though some countries are on track to reach the milestone earlier.