Europe delays Pfizer, BioNTech COVID vaccine deliveries as it gears up for fall booster push

As the EU gears up for a COVID-19 booster campaign this fall, the bloc has delayed vaccine deliveries from Pfizer and BioNTech. The change creates time for officials to secure potential variant-adapted shots that could score authorization in the months to come.

Pfizer and BioNTech—which last year pledged to supply Europe with up to 1.8 billion doses of their mRNA vaccine Comirnaty through 2023—are pushing back deliveries scheduled for June through August by three months. The unspecified number of doses is now pegged to arrive in the EU starting in September through the fourth quarter of 2022, Pfizer and BioNTech said Monday.

The delivery update shouldn’t crimp Pfizer and BioNTech’s 2022 revenue guidance or full-year delivery commitments to Europe, the companies said.

BioNTech recently laid out expectations to generate between 13 billion euros ($13.68 billion) and 17 billion euros ($17.89 billion) for the full year, marking a decline from the nearly 19 billion euros it reaped in 2021.

Meanwhile, amid reports of lagging vaccine demand, Pfizer in early May stuck to its forecast for 2022 COVID shot sales of $32 billion. The company expects its COVID-19 antiviral Paxlovid to turn in revenues of about $22 billion.

The new timeline will ensure EU member states get vaccines when they need them, “including future variant adapted vaccines, if authorized, so that they can respond to any epidemiological developments later this year and continue to support partner countries globally," the European Commission said.

During autumn and winter, EU members will “more likely need additional stocks of vaccines for national campaigns," the commission added.

Meanwhile, it's unclear how demand for pandemic therapies and vaccines will play out for the remainder of the year.

Pfizer’s South African vaccine manufacturing partner Biovac, for instance, last week warned of a possible manufacturing reduction amid a slump in global COVID-19 prophylactic demand.

“It is becoming increasingly recognized that vaccine supply is no longer the primary challenge impacting vaccinating [low- and middle-income countries] and thus manufacturing more doses of COVID-19 vaccines is not the only solution to this complex problem,” a Pfizer spokesperson told Fierce Pharma last week.

She added that Pfizer has “nothing new to share” regarding its Biovac partnership.

While Pfizer’s mRNA shot is doing well enough to reap tens of billions of dollars in sales regardless of a demand downturn, the sluggish appetite for COVID shots has prompted developers of more traditional vaccines, such as AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, to either dial back or eliminate vaccine revenue guidance for the year.

Elswhere, AstraZeneca’s manufacturing partner Serum Institute of India revealed it stopped making new COVID-19 shots in December as it sits on a stockpile of 200 million doses.

Similarly, the senior director of Johnson & Johnson’s South African production partner Aspen Pharmacare recently told Reuters the company hadn’t received any orders for its branded version of J&J's COVID-19 shot, dubbed Aspenovax.

“If we don’t get any kind of vaccine orders, then clearly there’ll be very little rationale for retaining the lines that we’re currently using for production,” Aspen’s Stavros Nicolaou told Reuters, referring to the manufacturer’s COVID-19 vaccine plant in Gqeberha, South Africa.