BRUSSELS — Six European countries branded Pfizer’s announcement of a temporary delay to the deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines as “unacceptable” calling on Brussels to ensure “transparency and stability”.

A spokeswoman for Pfizer Denmark confirmed on Friday that in order for the company to reach its two billion doses target for the year, facilities at its plant in Puurs, Belgium, must be adapted which “requires new quality tests and approvals from the authorities”.

“As a consequence, fewer doses will be available for European countries at the end of January and the beginning of February,” she added.

Health ministers from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden wrote in a joint letter to the European Commission following the announcement that “this situation is unacceptable.”

“Not only does it impact the planned vaccination schedules, it also decreases the credibility of the vaccination process,” they added.

They are calling on the bloc’s health commissioner to stress to Pfizer “the need to ensure stability and transparency of timely deliveries”.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FIH) said in a statement that “this means that in week 3 we will receive 7,800 fewer doses than Pfizer had previously reported”. It added that it will be able to “compensate for this reduction in deliveries with the emergency stockpile” it has created.

A French governmental source told AFP that the authorities would revise its vaccination strategy “as soon as France knows the exact level of future deliveries”. It added that the delay would not impact “the overall deployment of the vaccination campaign” because the country “had anticipated potential delays”.

France, which has so far received about 1.5 million doses, had by Friday evening vaccinated 389,000 people. It targets 1 million vaccinations by the end of the month.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Lisbon, Portugal, that she “immediately called the CEO of Pfizer” following the announcement.

“He reassured me that all guaranteed doses of the first quarter will be delivered in the first quarter. He’s personally on the case on reducing the delay period and to make sure that they will catch up as soon as possible,” she added.

Italy, continental Europe’s most severely-hit country, has so far administered 972,000 of the 1.4 million doses it has received — the largest amount in numerical terms. It is followed by Germany and Spain where 842,455 and 672,186 doses have been used respectively.

But with more than 2,263 doses administered per 100,000 population, Denmark has for now inoculated the highest share of inhabitants. Ireland and Italy come next with more than 1,600 doses per 100,000 population.

The UK, which started its vaccination campaign nearly three weeks earlier, is far ahead with more than 3.2 million people vaccinated, which amounts to 5,100 doses per 100,000. — Euronews


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