Shares at American pharmaceutical firm Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) have slipped after its announcement that it will be temporary reducing deliveries of its Covid-19 vaccine to Europe while it seeks to upgrade its production capacity to the target 2 billion doses per year.
“This temporary reduction will affect all European countries,” a spokeswoman for Pfizer Denmark said in a statement to The Associated Press. “It is as yet not precisely clear how long time it will take before Pfizer is up to maximum production capacity again”.
The decision was made so that Pfizer can focus on expanding its production at its plant in Belgium, which will require “adaptation of facilities and processes at the factory” in order to meet the new target, alongside “new quality tests and approvals from the authorities”.
“As a consequence, fewer doses will be available for European countries at the end of January and the beginning of February”.
Pfizer is currently producing vaccines at a rate of 1.3 billion per year, but is attempting to upscale in order to meet the ambitious vaccination goals of the UK, EU and USA.
According to The Independent, Germany’s Health Ministry said on Friday that Pfizer had informed the European Commission – which is responsible for ordering vaccines from the company – that it will not be able to fulfil all of the promised deliveries in the next three to four weeks.
The ministry reportedly said that German officials took note of the unexpected announcement by the Commission ”with regret”, because the company had previously made “binding delivery commitments by mid-February”.
“The federal and state governments expect the EU Commission to provide clarity and certainty as soon as possible in negotiations with Pfizer about further deliveries and delivery dates,” Germany’s Health Ministry said in their statement.
While the Commission helped to orchestrate the vaccine deals on behalf of all 27 EU member states, it is not directly responsible for the timetable and deliveries.
Asked on Friday whether Brussels had been informed by Pfizer about delays in the EU, Commission health policy spokesman Stefan de Keersmaecker told The Independent that all enquiries surrounding production capacity should be directed to Pfizer itself.
“The Commission stands ready to support and facilitate contacts between the company and member states whenever needed,” he added.
Pfizer’s shares quaked mildly in response to the news, down -0.59% to USD 36.54 at GMT 15:52 on Friday, although the stock has remained relatively steady around the $37 mark since mid-December.