On January 1st, German company BioNTech criticized the EU’s failure to order more doses of its coronavirus vaccine, saying it is now competing with its US partner, Pfizer to boost production amid fears of a European “gap” left by the lack of other approved vaccines.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was the first to be approved by the EU late in December 2020. It was first approved by the US, Canada and the UK.
With criticism growing of the slow pace of the EU’s vaccine programme, Uğur Şahin, thehead of the German biotech firm, told Der Spiegel that the order process in Europe “certainly did not go as fast and smooth as it did with other countries”.
Şahin, who founded BioNtech with his wife, Özlem Türeci, – the firm’s chief medical officer – said the situation was “not rosy” as the EU had wrongly assumed several different vaccines would be ready at once, so spread its orders.
“The assumption was that many other companies would come up with their vaccines,” Şahin said. “It would seem that the impression was: ‘We’ll get enough, it won’t be so bad, and we have this under control.’ It surprised me.”
The US ordered 600m doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine in July, while the EU waited until November to order half as many.
Şahin said the firms were now working flat-out to increase production and “fill a hole due to a lack of other approved vaccines”.
He said BioNTech was aiming to launch a new manufacturing plant in Marburg, Germany, in February, “much earlier than planned.” It should be able to produce 250 million doses in the first half of 2021.
Basically, BioNTech is criticizing the EU because it didn’t order enough vaccine from it, and as a result its profits might suffer. It is a terrible, heinous crime, truly.
Now, if the worst outcome were to present itself, the EU might even order Russian vaccines and that would be a catastrophe. After all, diversifying sources and not being subject to a monopoly is clearly a negative.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said earlier this week that he had been sent a massive amount of mail from people complaining that citizens did not have quick enough access to the vaccine, even though it was made in Germany.
He defended the decision of EU health ministers to take a united approach rather than each country operating alone, arguing that having a united front meant that smaller and less wealthy member states could have access to it at the same time as the richest.
There have been similar complaints in France, where just 322 people have been vaccinated, prompting the government to promise that health workers aged over 50 could get the vaccine sooner than originally planned.
Italy has so far vaccinated 8,300 people and Spain said it was on track to have administered 1.3m doses.
So, yes, the EU are doing things with their own pace, expecting diversified sources of the vaccine, but that, of course, is bad, and monopoly is, after all – great.
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