UK hopes for millions of Pfizer vaccine doses this year despite supply issues

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
In this photo illustration, a man holds a syringe with a fake Covid-19 vaccine with the Pfizer logo in the background. Photo Illustration: Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
In this photo illustration, a man holds a syringe with a fake Covid-19 vaccine with the Pfizer logo in the background. Photo Illustration: Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The UK government is still hoping for “millions” of doses of the Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX) vaccine this month despite the emergence of supply chain issues.

Britain’s vaccination programme is expected to begin on Tuesday, after the UK government became the first Western country to sign off the vaccine as safe for rollout.

Downing Street had said last month it expected to have 10 million doses by the end of the year.

Business secretary Alok Sharma declined to say if it remained the government’s expectation in an interview with Sky News on Friday, instead telling viewers: “I hope we will have some millions by the end of this year but of course what we also always said is that the vast majority of this vaccination programme will take place in the New Year.

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“We are starting initially with 800,000 and then let’s see where we end up by the end of the year in terms of the numbers that we acquire. That will depend on the manufacturing.”

He added that “some” of the 800,000 initial batch were now in the UK, but voiced confidence they would all be received next week.

The Pfizer stock has been been on a tear since the coronavirus pandemic was first declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) in mid-March this year.

Chart: Yahoo Finance
Chart: Yahoo Finance

But the stock price has taken a hit overnight after a setback for Pfizer and BioNTech production. Pfizer stocks dropped 1.7% in New York on Thursday after several days of sustained gains, and futures were trading 1% lower on Friday.

Pfizer stocks dropped 1.7% in New York on Thursday after setbacks in production. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK
Pfizer stocks dropped 1.7% in New York on Thursday after setbacks in production. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK

A Pfizer spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that scaling up its raw material supply chain had taken “longer than expected,” resulting in the company halving its rollout target for 2020.

The two companies now expect only 50 million doses to be distributed this month, rather than the 100 million previously planned. “It’s important to highlight that the outcome of the clinical trial was somewhat later than the initial projection,” the spokesperson added.

Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (HMRA) has been forced to defend the robustness of its decision to approve the vaccine.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said American regulators would do a “more thorough job.” He told CBS News: “They really rushed through that approval.”

Fauci later said he had “great faith” in UK regulators. The MHRA denied the speed of approval meant expected standards had been “bypassed.”

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