A doctor administers the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 to a medical worker in Riesa, Germany, January 11 2021. Picture: MAJA HITJI/GETTY IMAGES
A doctor administers the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 to a medical worker in Riesa, Germany, January 11 2021. Picture: MAJA HITJI/GETTY IMAGES

Pfizer and BioNTech on Monday raised their Covid-19 vaccine production target for 2021 to 2-billion shots, as the partners respond to a global rush of countries seeking to order more doses.

The drugmakers have already committed more than half that capacity, BioNTech said in a presentation. A more than 50% boost from the previous 2021 target of 1.3-billion doses, the increase incorporates a label change that will allow doctors to extract six doses instead of five from each vaccine vial, BioNTech said.

Vaccine supply has been under intense scrutiny as Europe faces a new, faster-spreading variant of the virus that first emerged in the UK, with the EU last week sealing a deal to double its supply of Pfizer-BioNTech shots to as many as 600-million.

A new production plant in Marburg, Germany, is expected to become operational by the end of February. It will be able to make as many as 750-million doses a year, according to the presentation. BioNTech said it’s also seeking to add suppliers and contract manufacturers and improve its production processes.

The announcement comes as US president-elect Joe Biden’s team has said he will  distribute more of the available doses of coronavirus vaccines once he takes office, rather than holding back half of existing supply to guarantee the second shots needed to reach maximum potency.

The move, announced by Biden’s office on Friday and supported by a group of Democratic governors, represents a gamble by the incoming administration that there will be enough vaccine available to ensure second shots after 21 days for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and 28 days for the Moderna shot.

BioNTech American depositary receipts rose 1.4% in German trading, while Pfizer was little changed in US premarket trading.

Bloomberg

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