EU Seeks To Increase Supply of Pfizer’s/BioNTech’s COVID-19 Vaccine

By Erin Sanders -

April 29, 2021

The European Commission is working with Pfizer and BioNTech, a Mainz, Germany-based immunotherapy company, on a new contract for their COVID-19 vaccine with the aim to deliver 1.8 billion doses to the European Union (EU) for 2021 to 2023.

“The main vaccine used so far in the European Union is the one produced right here in Puurs, in Belgium—a true vaccine powerhouse,” said President Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission in an April 23, 2021 statement following a visit to Pfizer’s manufacturing facility in Puurs. “And with the enormous efforts of BioNTech-Pfizer and the acceleration of their vaccine deliveries, I am now confident that we will have sufficient doses to vaccinate 70% of the adult population in the European Union already in July [July 2021].”

She added that the parties are looking to finalize the new contract over the next few days (as reported on April 23, 2021) and that the additional supply of Pfizer’s/BioNTech’s vaccine will “secure the doses necessary to give booster shots to increase our immunity against this virus. It will provide vaccines adapted to escape variants that no longer respond to the vaccines. And it should enable us to vaccinate—if necessary and safe—children and teenagers.”

To support the additional supply, the European Medicines Agency reported on April 23, 2021 that it had approved an increase in batch size and associated process scale-up at Pfizer’s vaccine manufacturing site in Puurs, Belgium.

Separately, Evonik, a specialty and fine chemicals producer, has delivered the first batches of the lipids needed for Pfizer’s/BioNTech’s COVID-19 mRNA vaccine from Evonik’s site in Hanau, Germany.  Evonik had ramped up the lipid production in eight weeks. As part of its strategic partnership with BioNTech, Evonik produces two different lipids for the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Together with other lipids, these lipids encapsulate to form a lipid nanoparticle (LNP), which serves as a protective shell around the mRNA to transport it safely into the cell. There, the mRNA is released to allow the vaccine to take effect. 

Source: European Medicines Agency, European Commission, and Evonik