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Pfizer Slashed Its Original Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout Target After Supply-Chain Obstacles

Quelling the pandemic rests on supply-chain issues.
(Manuel Esteban)
(Manuel Esteban)
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“When Pfizer Inc. said last month it expects to ship half the Covid-19 vaccines it had originally planned for this year, the decision highlighted the challenges drug makers face in rapidly building supply chains to meet the high demand,” WSJ writes.

The Details: While Pfizer expects to distribute more than a billion doses next year, the company, and partner BioNTech SE, had set a goal of 100 million by the end of this year. That plan has since been reduced to 50 million as Pfizer-BioNTech gets ready to begin rollout after getting emergency-use authorization in the U.K. this week.

  • FDA approval in the U.S. could come later this month, as well as the authorization and rollout from Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine.

So what happened? According to a WSJ source directly involved in the vaccine development process, several early batches of Pfizer-BioNTech’s raw materials “failed to meet standards.” By the time it was corrected, the companies were already behind schedule.

  • Pfizer didn’t disclose what specific ingredients caused shortfalls, though it sources materials from providers in the U.S. and Europe. Scaling up production in anticipation of results from its late-stage trials presented a significant obstacle.
  • It’s important to note a pharmaceutical company typically doesn’t buy raw materials before their product is approved. But the pressing need to combat the pandemic and use of new mRNA technology in the vaccine meant adjusting on the fly.

“Pfizer and BioNtech are now on track to roll out 1.3 billion vaccines in 2021, and the 50 million dose shortfall this year will be covered as production ramps up.”

  • The U.K. ordered 40 million doses (two doses per person) but will likely get 10 million doses this year.
  • The U.S. government “placed an initial order for 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with the option to purchase 500 million additional doses.”
  • The EU ordered 200 million doses, with an option for an additional 100 million. Japan and countries in South America and the Asia-specific region also placed large-scale orders.

Justin Oh:

From Morning Cents December 2, 2020:

Vaccines will be distributed over time starting with high-risk patients and healthcare workers and gradually reaching the mass population. I am still hopeful about a 2021 recovery, but I believe it will look more like a line that increases over the year in a lumpy fashion rather than a step-change reversion back to 2019 levels.

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