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COVID vaccine: BioNTech plans 2 billion doses this year

January 11, 2021

The German vaccine maker has almost doubled its original production target of 1.3 billion doses due to increased partner capacity and approval to allow six doses per vial.

The BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine in cold storage
The vaccine was the first to be approved in the EU and US Image: ULMER Pressebildagentur/picture alliance

The German vaccine maker BioNTech and US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said they could produce up to 2 billion doses of their coronavirus vaccine in 2021,according to documents released on Monday.

The new production goal is an increase on the previously planned 1.3 billion doses the partners had aimed for.

BioNTech said the higher production estimate is based on improvements and enlargements at production facilities, and capacity increases at suppliers and production partners, according to documents submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

More shots per vial and new factories

A dilution of the vaccine was approved by EU regulators on Friday, which means each vial can now be used for six shots instead of five.

BioNTech also said it has added a new manufacturing site in Marburg, Germany, which is set to go online in February and will boost annual production capacity by up to 750 million doses.

The vaccine is currently being produced at BioNTech's headquarters in Mainz, Germany, a location in Belgium, and at several factories in the US.

50 million doses already made 

On Sunday, BioNTech said a total of 32.9 million doses have been distributed so far. The 2 billion doses planned for 2021 are enough to vaccinate 1 billion people under the two-dose regimen.

A BioNTech spokeswoman said Monday that 50 million doses have been produced by the end of 2020, but that deliveries have waited until specific orders are placed to avoid excess storage time, which is required at minus 70 degrees Celsius. 

The first coronavirus vaccine authorized for use in the EU, the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine has also been approved for use in the US, UK, Saudi Arabia as well as at least 19 other countries.

wmr/rt (AFP, Reuters)