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'Slow': Angela Merkel has ordered extra 30 million doses of vaccine. Photo: Getty

'Slow': Angela Merkel has ordered extra 30 million doses of vaccine. Photo: Getty

'Slow': Angela Merkel has ordered extra 30 million doses of vaccine. Photo: Getty

The German couple behind the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine have criticised the European Union for failing to order enough doses.

“The process in Europe was not as quick and straightforward as it was in other countries,” Prof Ugur Sahin, the billionaire scientist and CEO of BioNTech, told Spiegel magazine.

“There was an assumption that many other companies would come with vaccines. Obviously the thinking which prevailed was, we’ll get enough, it won’t be so bad, and we have it under control. I was amazed.”

Pfizer-BioNTech’s is the only vaccine with EU approval so far, but the bloc ordered only 200 million doses until last week, when it ordered a further 100 million.

That is still not enough to provide the EU’s 446 million population with a single shot, let alone the two required for the vaccine to be effective.

By comparison, the UK has ordered 30 million doses as well as 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, enough to immunise everyone.

Prof Sahin added: “It’s also because the EU is not directly authorised, but the member states have a say. In a situation where a quick decision is required, this can cost time.”

Ozlem Tureci, Prof Sahin’s wife and co-founder of BioNTech, added: “Several companies announced they were developing a vaccine. So the EU and some other countries came up with the idea of putting together a basket of different providers. This approach made perfect sense. At some point, however, it turned out that many were unable to deliver on time. Then it was too late to order extensively elsewhere.”

Criticised for failing to secure enough doses of a vaccine developed in Germany, Angela Merkel’s government ordered an extra 30 million doses, only to come under fire from Italy for breaking an agreement for the EU to buy the vaccine as a bloc.

BioNTech is now in urgent talks with suppliers to ramp up its production to meet the demand. German politicians have called for the government to order other pharmaceutical companies to produce the vaccine, but Prof Sahin warned that there were no quick fixes.

“Manufacturing drug-quality mRNA vaccines is anything but trivial. You can’t just switch over and produce the vaccine instead of aspirin or cough syrup,” he said. “The process requires years of expertise and the right equipment. It took us 10 years to build up these skills.”

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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