Find out why Pfizer slashed by half their 2020 mRNA vaccine production, and what it means for the fight against COVID-19!
Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine : 2020 Production Cut By Half
On 3 December 2020, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Pfizer and BioNTech slashed by half the COVID-19 vaccines they were going to manufacture in 2020.
Instead of 100 million doses, they would only be able to manufacture 50 million doses of their BNT162b2 vaccine by the end of 2020.
That is only good enough to vaccinate up to 25 million people, because every person requires two doses.
That immediately knocked down Pfizer and BioNTech’s share prices by 2%, before recovering slightly.
Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine : 2020 Production Cut To 50 Million Doses
Pfizer and BioNTech originally hoped to roll out 100 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate – BNT162b2 vaccine – by the end of 2020.
But they were forced to announce a reduced goal of 50 million doses in their 9 November 2020 press release :
Along with the efficacy data generated from the clinical trial, Pfizer and BioNTech are working to prepare the necessary safety and manufacturing data to submit to the FDA to demonstrate the safety and quality of the vaccine product produced.
Based on current projections we expect to produce globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.
Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine : 2020 Production Cut Explained!
The Wall Street Journal report was not incorrect, but many readers misinterpreted the change to be new.
The article came out almost a month AFTER the 9 November Pfizer press release.
Here are the reasons why Pfizer and BioNTech were forced to cut their production forecast, and what their 2021 production forecast is like.
The Clinical Trial Took Longer Than Expected
Their Phase 3 clinical trial, which started on 27 July 2020, took longer than anticipated. Ironically, this was due to its effectiveness.
The trial required a minimum of 164 confirmed COVID-19 cases, which they did not achieve when they announced the reduced production goal on 9 November 2020.
That milestone was only achieved in mid November, and announced on 18 November 2020.
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Raw Materials Failed To Meet Standards
As explained in the WSJ article, Pfizer started to work on the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain in March, sourcing raw materials from suppliers in the US and Europe.
However, “early batches of the raw materials failed to meet the standards“, said a person directly involved in the development of the Pfizer vaccines.
And even though they fixed the problems, they “ran out of time to meet this year’s projected shipments“.
This Was Much Faster Than Usual
As WSJ also pointed out – pharmaceutical companies do not typically set up supply chains and manufacturing lines for a product that has not yet been approved.
So even the ability to produce 50 million doses by the end of the year is phenomenally fast, especially when the BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine was only approved by the UK MHRA, and has yet to be approved by the US FDA or EU EMA.
This was only possible because Pfizer set up their supply chain early, while the early trials just started.
1.35 Billion vs 1.4 Billion Difference
While their 2020 production goal was slashed by half to 50 million doses, that isn’t a big difference in the grand scheme of things.
Pfizer says that they are on track to produce 1.3 billion doses in 2021. So the production difference by the end of 2021 is really 1.35 billion versus 1.4 billion – a shortfall of 3.6%.
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Changes In Vaccine Shipment Schedule?
Is there any change in Pfizer’s vaccine shipment schedule? That depends.
If the delivery schedule was announced before 9 November 2020, it is likely to be affected somewhat.
But if delivery was announced after 9 November 2020, then it stands to reason that it would be based on the current 50 million dose forecast for 2020.
Take, for example, Malaysia’s purchase of 12.8 million doses on 27 November 2020. The scheduled delivery of 1 million doses in Q1 2021 should not be affected by the 9 November 2020 announcement.
COVID-19 : How To Keep Safe!
Here are a few simple steps to stay safe :
- Avoid suspected cases or disease hotspots, like hospitals, if possible!
- Avoid public events and crowds
- Keep our hands clean with soap or hand sanitiser
- If you need to wear a surgical mask, make sure you put it on and remove it properly!
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