BUCHAREST: Government officials said Thursday that Pfizer has cut in half the volume of the Covid-19 vaccines it will provide to some European Union countries this week, as frustration grows over the US drug company’s unexpected cut in supplies.
André Paseo, deputy health minister, told Reuters that Romania had only received 50 percent of its planned volume for this week, while the other half had been gradually allocated by the end of March, with births returning to normal next week.
Authorities said it was a similar situation in Poland, which on Monday received 176,000 doses, 50% less than expected.
The Czech government had been preparing for the disruption of the past weeks, which had slowed the vaccination campaign as the second doses began.
“We have to expect a decrease in the number of open vaccination appointments in the next three weeks,” Health Minister Jean Platney told reporters, with Pfizer deliveries falling about 15% this week and up to 30% in two weeks later.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech declined to comment on the cuts other than their statement last week, which announced cuts in deliveries as manufacturing increased in Europe.
Some countries think they can handle it. The government public health agency said Norway has emergency stocks and will continue administering the doses as planned.
Senior officials said the US pharmaceutical company has informed Bulgaria and Poland that it will replace the missed doses.
But the Danish Serum Institute said its loss of 50 percent in shots this week would result in a 10 percent deficit in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, Italy is threatening to take legal action against Pfizer, with the special commissioner for COVID-19, Domenico Arcuri, said on Thursday that the country had been told to expect a 20% cut next week after supply cuts this week by about 30%.
As governments across the region continue to be affected by sudden cuts, officials say the cuts undermine their efforts to vaccinate their own citizens and tame the pandemic that has killed more than 2 million people.
Adding to the disruptions, there are concerns about the supplies of special syringes needed to extract six doses of each vial of the Pfizer syringe.
The European Disease Control Agency warned, Thursday, that three types of Corona virus that appeared in Britain, South Africa and Brazil will lead to more Covid-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
In Hungary, where authorities gave the green light to the use of the British AstraZeneca and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines ahead of the European Union’s Medicines Regulatory Authority, a senior official called on Brussels to try to ensure that deliveries from Pfizer and other vaccine manufacturers would stick to the schedule. .
“We will be happy if the (European) Commission takes steps as soon as possible to ensure that Pfizer and other manufacturers will change deliveries,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, Jirjeli Julias.
The problem has spread to countries outside the trading bloc as well – Canada is facing delays as in Switzerland, where the mountain canton of Grisons got just 1,000 rounds from Pfizer this week, well short of the 3,000 rounds it had expected.