Pfizer expects to ship out only half of the COVID-19 vaccine doses it had initially planned for this year after running into supply-chain problems, a report said Thursday.
The company said its initial projections of distributing 100 million doses worldwide by the end of the year has now been reduced to 50 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.
“Scaling up the raw material supply chain took longer than expected,” a company spokeswoman told the newspaper.
“And it’s important to highlight that the outcome of the clinical trial was somewhat later than the initial projection.”
Despite the setback, the company said it’s still on track to roll out more than a billion doses worldwide in 2021, the newspaper reported.
A Pfizer facility in Puurs, Belgium.
It’s unclear what the snafu means for the US, which has been planning to distribute 6.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine within 24 hours of authorization — and to obtain a total of 40 million doses from Pfizer and another vaccine-maker, Moderna, by the end of the year.
A Pfizer spokeswoman wouldn’t answer that question directly, but told The Post that the Journal’s report was “consistent [with] what we’ve previously shared in our external communications in November that we would supply up to 50 million.”
“This has been public since the second week of November prior to today,” spokeswoman Jessica Pitts added.
The White House and US Department of Health and Human Services didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Pfizer didn’t provide further details about the obstacles, but a source said one of the ingredients had failed to meet standards early on in the manufacturing process.
“We were late. Some early batches of the raw materials failed to meet the standards, the source told the newspaper.
“We fixed it, but ran out of time to meet this year’s projected shipments.”
Another insider noted that the manufacturing process has been highly unusual since it began before regulators approved the vaccine.
“For this one, everything happened simultaneously,” the source told the paper.
“We started setting up the supply chain in March, while the vaccine was still being developed. That’s totally unprecedented.”
The dramatic reduction in shipment projections comes after the UK granted the vaccine emergency-use authorization on Wednesday.
The Food and Drug Administration in the US is currently reviewing the vaccine candidate and is expected to announce a decision later this month.
In an earlier statement tied to Britain’s approval of the vaccine on Wednesday, Pfizer said that its planned delivery of 40 million doses to the UK “will occur throughout 2020 and 2021, in stages, to ensure an equitable allocation of vaccines across the geographies with executed contracts.”