The Korea Herald


Pfizer says supply reduction temporary, won't affect Korea

Belgian factory upscaling to yield ‘significantly more doses in the second quarter’

By Lim Jeong-yeo

Published : Jan. 26, 2021 - 16:12

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Pfizer's mRNA vaccine is promised to enter South Korea from July, in a deal separate from the COVAX agreement. (Yonhap) Pfizer's mRNA vaccine is promised to enter South Korea from July, in a deal separate from the COVAX agreement. (Yonhap)
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine’s temporary supply reduction in Europe has sparked worries for a possible delay in shipments here, but Pfizer Korea said Tuesday that Korea will suffer no such setback.

“For the doses Pfizer Korea has signed with the South Korean government, there appears to be no problem with the supply,” a Pfizer Korea official told The Korea Herald.

Pfizer and BioNTech announced via press release dated Jan. 15, that the companies have decided to scale-up the manufacturing facility in Puurs, Belgium, in order to deliver “significantly more doses in the second quarter.”

Due to this plan resulting in “certain modifications of production processes,” Pfizer’s Belgian factory has been experiencing a reduction in the number of doses it can deliver in the short term.

This situation will normalize beginning this week, and the increased delivery volume will begin in the week of Feb. 15, Pfizer and BioNTech said.

Pfizer’s contract with the South Korean government states that 20 million doses of the vaccine will enter the country starting in third quarter. There would be people in Korea already inoculated with the vaccine prior to July, however, through the delivery supplied by the global COVAX facility.

Pfizer Korea applied for emergency use of the vaccine in Korea, a regulatory prerequisite, on Monday, listing its Belgian plant as the place of manufacture. The local Drug Ministry said it would make an all-out effort to complete the review within 40 days.

According to the application, Pfizer proposes its vaccine to be given to those older than 16. It is to be administered in two doses given three weeks apart.

Unlike Moderna who has floated possibilities of working in collaboration with a reliable contract manufacturing organization, Pfizer has yet to initiate talks for CMO production in Korea.

“The headquarters will leave the possibility open, but living in the times of pandemic, our primary focus is to deliver the vaccine to the world as fast as we can within our validated, safe control tower,” a Pfizer Korea official told The Korea Herald.

So far, Pfizer and BioNTech can produce 1 billion doses in 2021 through their facilities and their partners’. They are seeking to increase that number to 2 billion by end-2021 by expanding current sites and adding more suppliers and contract manufacturers. three Pfizer sites in Kalamazoo, Michigan; Andover, Massachusetts; and St. Louis in Missouri.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for global supply is manufactured at the Puurs, Belgium factory. While the Marburg, Germany factory is expected to become operational by end of February.

As for the minus 70 degrees Celsius ultra-cold storage and distribution requirements, Pfizer Korea said that the details of the logistics depend on how each state plans to execute inoculations.

The Korean government has so far announced it will appoint vaccination centers specific to Pfizer vaccines.

Pfizer Korea will comply with the state authority’s plans and assist vaccination to its best ability, the Pfizer Korea official said.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (