The United States-based pharmaceutical company Pfizer recently announced that there would be a delay in the delivery of its coronavirus vaccines. The delay is said to be a result of changing the manufacturing process to increase the production of vaccines. Pfizer has decided to manufacture more vaccines in 2021 than it had planned earlier, which has resulted in a slight modification of its delivery schedules to the UK, Canada, and countries across the EU.
Several countries have protested or otherwise shown disapproval over the short notice given by Pfizer, saying it affects their vaccine distribution and administration programmes. Germany, who had placed the largest order for the Pfizer vaccine in the EU, expressed regret over the situation, calling the notice unexpected and short. The Lithuanian health minister also expressed the desire for the vaccine delivery schedule to be restored.
Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia have written a letter to the EU, complaining about the fewer number of vaccines coming in and urging the EU to exert pressure over Pfizer-BioNTech. However, Pfizer has maintained that reduced delivery is a short-term issue only. Pfizer plans to increase the vaccine's shipments in late February and early March, making up for the reduced deliveries in January and early February and bringing the total number of vaccines delivered in the first quarter of the year equal to what was agreed beforehand.
The UK, which has already secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, is also affected by the situation. The government and healthcare authorities are trying to understand the implications of the Pfizer vaccine's delay on their vaccine administration schedule. Still, they have positively maintained that they plan to meet their previous target of vaccinating all four priority groups by the mid of February.
In large part, this is possible due to the availability of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK, which has been licensed and is being rolled out in the country. The EU, too, is not solely dependent on the Pfizer vaccine. The European Commission has made agreements with six pharmaceutical companies for purchasing their vaccines once they pass clinical trials. These are AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi-GSK, CureVac, Novavax, and Moderna. However, the fact remains that delays in the Pfizer vaccine delivery have made the EU lag behind the US and the UK in the immunization process.