BioNTech founders warn of vaccine shortfall


Founders of the company that developed the first WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine have warned that there will be gaps in supply until other vaccines are rolled out.

In an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel, BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin said his company was working with its Big Pharma partner Pfizer to try to make up for the expected vaccine shortfall.

“At the moment things are not looking rosy, there is a hole because there are no other approved vaccines and we have to fill this gap with our vaccine. That is also the reason why we are now working with Pfizer on whether and how we can produce even more,” Şahin said.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to approve a vaccine by pharma company Moderna on January 6, while German Health Minister Jens Spahn has also urged the EMA to quickly approve a vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca that the U.K. cleared this week.

There has been consternation in the EU at the slow pace of getting people vaccinated. On Thursday, French Heath Minister Olivier Véran promised to ramp up the country’s vaccination drive after being criticized for its slow pace.

Şahin admitted that the process in Europe was “not as quick and straightforward as it was in other countries.” He faulted the EU’s decision to spread orders across different manufacturers in the expectation that more vaccines would get quickly approved.

“There was an assumption that many other companies would come with vaccines. Apparently the impression prevailed: We’ll get enough, it won’t be that bad, and we have it under control. I was amazed,” Şahin said. While the U.S. bought up around 600 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine in July, it took the EU until November to order half that amount.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium policy service: Pro Health Care. From drug pricing, EMA, vaccines, pharma and more, our specialized journalists keep you on top of the topics driving the health care policy agenda. Email [email protected] for a complimentary trial.

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