Pfizer Could More Than Double Its Weekly COVID-19 Vaccine Production in March
The news comes on the same day as new data showing the vaccine's efficacy as a single-dose prophylactic, as well as the company's application for eased storage standards for US supplies.
Pfizer leadership announced Friday evening that their US coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine output will more than double from the current count of 5 million doses weekly in the coming month.
The announcement from chief executive officer Albert Bourla, who spoke following President Joseph Biden’s tour of the Pfizer manufacturing plant in Michigan that day. As of February 17, the global pharmaceutical company had supplied 40 million doses of its two-dose mRNA COVID-19 vaccine BNT162b2 to the US.
With newfound capability to produce the vaccine in 60 days—versus the previous 110 days—Pfizer can more quickly deliver on its contracted 300 million doses to the US by July this year.
“We have improved our processes to double the batch size and increase yield and we have deployed more efficient lab test methods to reduce release times,” Bourla said.
Also on Friday, Bourla told CNBC the company is prepared to ship cumulative 120 million doses by the end of March, and 200 million doses by the end of May.
News of improved vaccine manufacturing for Pfizer also came on the same day as promising developments in its observed clinical efficacy and distribution.
First, a study published in The Lancet observing the vaccine in real-world Israel patients showed symptomatic COVID-19 was reduced by 85% in the 2-4 weeks following administration of just the first dose.
“Early reductions of COVID-19 rates provide support of delaying the second dose in countries facing vaccine shortages and scarce resources, so as to allow higher population coverage with a single dose,” the investigators wrote on their findings.
Next, Pfizer and BioNTech submitted an application to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that would authorize vaccine vials to be stored in temperatures between -15 and -25 degrees Celsius, instead of the requirements that are now in place (-80 to -60 degrees Celsius).
FDA acceptance for the change to storage expectations listed in the companies’ Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) would allow for eased distribution, given the currently necessary specialized shipping containers and storage facilities used at vaccine distribution sites to cater to the particularities of the mRNA vaccine.
“We have been continuously performing stability studies to support the production of the vaccine at commercial scale, with the goal of making the vaccine as accessible as possible for healthcare providers and people across the U.S. and around the world,” Bourla said in a statement. “If approved, this new storage option would offer pharmacies and vaccination centers greater flexibility in how they manage their vaccine supply.”
As of Friday evening, the US has administered 59.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).