BioNTech/Pfizer distributing COVID-19 vaccine in EU from Wednesday

Agency Reporter

The first deliveries of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine within the European Union (EU) can start on Wednesday, according to the German manufacturer BioNTech.

By the end of the year, 12.5 million doses would be ready for the bloc, BioNTech chief executive Sean Marett announced on Tuesday.

The vaccination doses are currently stored in the plant of BioNTech’s U.S. partner Pfizer in Puurs, Belgium.

This is where the raw materials, which are manufactured in BioNTech’s various production facilities, are processed and filled.

The doses should be in every EU member state by Saturday so that vaccinations could start on Sunday, BioNTech chief financial officer Sierk Poeting said.

According to its own statements, the coronavirus vaccine manufacturer Biontech will in principle be able to produce a preparation against the mutation of the virus that appeared in Britain within six weeks.

“But that’s a purely technical consideration,” BioNTech boss Ugur Sahin said on Tuesday.

He said it was not just about technical issues, but also about how the regulatory authorities would rate the preparation.

He added that it was very likely that the vaccine that had already been produced would also work against the new variant.

The platform of the previous vaccine would not be affected in the event of any further development, medical director and BioNTech co-founder Ozlem Tureci explained.

In this case, the question would be to what extent the authorities accepted the safety and efficacy data already submitted for the current vaccine as a basis.

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This in turn would influence the duration of a possible approval process.

According to the German disease control authority the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the new strain of the coronavirus has already reached Germany from Britain.

“The probability that it is already in Germany, but not yet recognized, is very, very high,” RKI President Lothar Wieler said on Tuesday in Berlin.

He pointed out that the new strain was detected for the first time in Britain in September, and that there is already evidence that it has appeared in neighbouring countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark.

However, Wieler said he did not know of any laboratory evidence in Germany.

The new variant is apparently much more common in Britain than other variants.

“That could be because it is more infectious, but it doesn’t have to be the case,” Wieler said.

“We cannot yet clearly assess the significance of the variant for what is happening,” he added.

Regarding the importance of the variant for the upcoming vaccinations, Wieler said: “All of these data that we know so far suggest that the protection provided by vaccination is not restricted if this variant spreads further.”

Wieler is hoping for more information on the new variant this year.