Pfizer and partner BioNTech now expect to product 3 billion doses in 2021, all of which they expects to allocate to customers (2.2 billion doses had been ordered as of the end of July, according to the latest update from BioNTech yesterday).
In 2022 capacity will rise to 4 billion, driven by ongoing demand for both initial vaccination and booster shots.
So far, more than 1 billion doses have been ordered for 2022 and beyond. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla says it's still very early in terms of estimating what the 2022 order total could look like. But manufacturing capacity is already set to reach 4 billion doses, he revealed in the company's Q2 earnings call with analysts.
"We have multiple countries that have already accomplished agreements for 2022 and 2023, like Europe, for example, Israel, Canada. Canada, actually, they will be going all the way to 2024. The US just got an additional 200 million doses.
“And virtually every country in the world right now is discussing with us for additional doses.”
As with 2021, Bourla is confident demand will meet supply for the vaccine in 2022.
Increased capacity will be helped by production at additional facilities, such as Biovac's South Africa site, which will start manufacturing doses in 2022 with capacity for more than 100 million doses a year. Further ahead, BioNTech will establish a fully-integrated mRNA manufacturing facility in Singapore, which is expected to become operational in 2023.
Booster shots needed in a year
Pfizer and BioNTech are currently working on estimates that a third booster shot will be needed 8-12 months from the second dose. To provide protection against Delta, that might come earlier – around the 6-8 month mark - particularly for more vulnerable members of the population.
In the US, Pfizer intends to submit all the data needed for a booster dose to the FDA by next week. If a positive outcome is received, it will then be down to the CDC to recommend its policy on administration.
Elsewhere, it will be a matter of policy for each country, dependent on the roll-out of the first two doses. Israel, for example, vaccinated on mass between January and March. These older adults are now six to eight months past completing their vaccination; meaning a third dose could be appropriate. Meanwhile, the UK – although also speedy to ramp up mass vaccination earlier this year – appears to have gained longer protection from vaccination because of the extended interval between dose one and two.
“We expect the third dose to be potent and somewhat maybe more long-lasting than the second," said Mikael Dolsten, president of worldwide research and development and medical at Pfizer. “But we also recognize that the viruses constantly evolve. And you all start to notice about Delta Plus variant. Hence, while I cannot predict with certainty the future, I would not be surprised if similar to flu, that we would need with interval to boost our vaccine against COVID.
“Whether this will be on an annual [basis], or based on simple diagnostic that allows it to be boosted at the right time before your risk for infection is high, we need to monitor. But all in all, we believe that similar to a flu business, it may be likely for the COVID business. But we are gathering data to validate, and we'll constantly work with key opinion leaders and regulators in interpreting the data.”