FRANKFURT/BERLIN (Reuters) – BioNTech is to supply 50 million specialty needles at no profit to countries struggling to extract a sixth dose from vials of its COVID-19 vaccine, while Europe’s immunisation campaign is hampered by a temporary supply shortfall.
European Union countries have been rushing to secure supplies of special syringes with so-called low dead space that are needed to stop any vaccine being wasted when shots are administered.
“BioNTech purchased low dead space needles which work with multiple syringes and is offering a supply with the low dead space needles to countries around the world on a cost-covering basis,” it said in a written statement to Reuters.
The vaccine from BioNTech and U.S. partner Pfizer was initially sold in the EU in vials meant to deliver five doses, but a global shortage of shots and a viability assessment on dosage convinced the EU drugs regulator to approve on Jan. 8 the extraction of six doses from the same vials.
The decision increased availability, prompting Pfizer to raise its output targets for this year to 2 billion vaccines from 1.3 billion initially envisaged.
Yet some European countries have been drawing fewer than the approved six doses because they lack the right injection equipment.
Officials and healthcare professionals in France, Germany and Switzerland this week all pointed to lower yields, adding to frustrations in countries already lagging vaccination campaigns in countries such as Britain and the United States.
Pfizer, in a separate statement, said it was in talks with the European Commission and EU member states “on how we can best support vaccinations plans – this includes supporting governments in securing supply of (low-dead-space) syringes should they need it.”
BioNTech, headquartered in Mainz, Germany, said it had taken delivery of around 50 million such needles, which it could provide to countries around the world, and was in talks to procure more.
(Reporting by Ludwig Burger and Douglas Busvine; editing by Thomas Seythal and Jane Merriman)