There is growing frustration across Europe over reduced shipments of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine while the U.S. pharmaceutical company increases production capacity at its plant in Belgium.
European governments say it delaying the early stages of the rollout to hospital personnel, the elderly and key workers.
The EU and many nations are under pressure for what is seen as the slow start to their vaccination campaigns compared to countries like Israel and Britain which is no longer in the EU.
Pfizer announced a temporary reduction in deliveries last Friday while it updates its facilities in Belgium , the plant which provides vaccines for Europe.
The delay, which the pharma giant said would last for a few weeks, affects not only the number of people who can get inoculated during that period but also disrupts the timetable to ensure elderly residents and caregivers get the required two doses within several weeks.
Romania has only received half volume it was expecting this week while the remaining half will be allocated gradually until the end of March, while normal deliveries will resume next week, deputy Health Minister Andrei Baciu told Reuters news agency.
Reuters reported that Poland received 176,000 vaccine doses on Monday, about half the amount it was expecting.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “We were all surprised by the announcement of Pfizer-BioNTech to have a delay.”
The EU now expects Pfizer to deliver 92% of what was expected to the 27 member states this week and the next one. The missing 8% is expected to be recovered during the week of Feb. 15
Ms Von der Leyen said the immediate challenge would be securing enough doses to make sure people who already had their first shot of Pfizer vaccine received their second jab within the recommended interval.
The EU is slated to get up to 600 million doses from Pfizer.
In Europe, the criticism of Pfizer stands in sharp contrast to the praise it received last month for being exceptionally fast in producing a Covid-19 vaccine that was considered safe and effective.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was the first vaccine authorized for use in the U.K. the EU and the U.S.
The is an urgency to press on with the rollout in the bloc here 400,000 people with the virus have died.