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Pfizer Lifts Covid-19 Vaccine Production Targets For 2021, 2022

The Wall Street Journal. logo The Wall Street Journal. 5/7/2021 Jared S. Hopkins
a close up of a device © chandan khanna/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Pfizer Inc. is raising manufacturing projections for its Covid-19 vaccine this year and next, saying it could produce hundreds of millions of extra doses it would send to developing countries.

Pfizer expects to produce 3 billion doses this year, up from the 2.5 billion doses it had earlier projected, and at least 4 billion next year, an increase from the 3 billion forecast, Chief Executive Albert Bourla said in a post on social-media site LinkedIn.

Pfizer, which developed the vaccine with BioNTech SE, disclosed the increase in production targets as Covid-19 vaccine makers face pressure from developing countries, in particular, to send more doses.

The additional supplies could help ease supply constraints in countries hit by a surge in cases.

“These doses are not for the rich or poor, not for the north or south. These are doses for ALL,” Mr. Bourla said.

India and other countries have been confronting dramatic increases in Covid-19 cases, while the U.S., Israel and other developed countries log declines in cases as vaccination campaigns roll out.

Developing countries are blaming insufficient vaccine doses. While several Covid-19 vaccines have been cleared by governments, there is limited supply due to scarce raw materials to make them and limited manufacturing capacity.


Video: Pfizer begins export of U.S.-made COVID vaccines (Reuters)

To spur more production, India and South Africa have urged the World Trade Organization to waive the patents on Covid-19 vaccines so the countries could make the shots locally. The Biden administration said it supports a temporary waiver.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the most-administered of the three Covid-19 vaccines cleared for use in the U.S. Pfizer has said it is increasing distribution around the world and it has begun shipping doses made in the U.S. to other countries.

BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin said this week during an event hosted by the Financial Times that the companies were prepared to produce 3 billion doses this year.

Next year’s projected increase is based on Pfizer’s ability to make 3 billion doses this year, which would demonstrate that Pfizer was making doses at the rate needed to make 4 billion next year, Mr. Bourla said.

Under its agreement with BioNTech, Pfizer distributes the vaccine to most countries.

Pfizer has struck deals to supply doses to 116 countries and is in talks with others to supply about 2.7 billion doses this year, Mr. Bourla said. About 40% of these doses will go to mid- and low-income countries, he said.

Mr. Bourla said in his LinkedIn post that patent waivers would “derail the progress” of ramping up Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing by threatening to upend the raw material supply chain.

To make their vaccine, Pfizer and BioNTech procure 280 ingredients made in 19 different countries, he said.

“Entities with little or no experience in manufacturing vaccines are likely to chase the very raw materials we require to scale our production, putting the safety and security of all at risk,” he said.

Mr. Bourla said that he told U.S. trade officials last week that suspending waivers was the wrong decision.

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