By Francesco Guarascio
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Vaccine plants in the European Union are expected to produce 3.6 billion COVID-19 shots next year, out of a global output of more than 20 billion, two senior EU officials said on Wednesday.
EU countries are administering boosters after having completed the primary vaccination of nearly 70% of the EU population, whereas in Africa only 7% have been immunised against the coronavirus, EU data show.
“We are going to produce in Europe much more than what is needed,” the EU official told a press briefing, adding that administering boosters in the bloc was not in conflict with the goal of vaccinating the world, because the EU produces more than it needs for itself.
Plants in the EU will make 3.6 billion COVID-19 doses in 2022, up from about 3 billion this year, the official said, adding: “This is much more than what we need to vaccinate and give a booster to our population”.
The official did not give a breakdown by vaccine makers.
The largest producers in Europe have so far been Pfizer Inc and BioNTech.
Other vaccine makers with facilities in the EU are AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Novavax also has production capacity in the EU and is expected to soon start delivering shots in Europe.
A second official said the EU estimated that in 2022, the global output of COVID-19 shots would exceed 20 billion doses, citing expanding capacity of Chinese and Russian vaccine makers.
By December, EU states donated about 350 million doses to countries with lower vaccination rates, the bulk of it to COVAX, the global mechanism to support equitable access to vaccines, EU data show.
But only about 120 million of these doses have actually been delivered, because of regulatory and infrastructure problems in receiving countries, one of the EU officials said.
The official also noted that some of the doses donated by the EU had a short shelf-life, but did not elaborate on donors and receiving countries.
On Tuesday, Reuters reported that up to one million COVID-19 vaccines were estimated to have expired in Nigeria last month without being used.
“We had some cases of too-short shelf life for some of the vaccines we sent. But we have had the same experience in Europe,” the official said.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; Editing by Alexander Smith and Bernadette Baum)