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Don’t you dare! Pfizer warns EU to not block exports to UK – fears of vaccine war
March 20, 2021
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The pharmaceutical company has urged the bloc to step back from its blockade because it needs access to crucial vaccine ingredients made in Yorkshire. The firm and its partner BioNTech have warned the EU that the UK could withhold vital materials needed for vaccine production if the EU was to press ahead with its ban. The company based in Yorkshire called Croda International, a chemicals firm has been delivering vital “fatty molecules” to Pfizer’s
factories in the EU as part of the ingredients to produce the vaccine.
The company based in Yorkshire signed a five-year contract to produce the vital ingredient in November.
Pfizer has said if the raw materials from the UK are withdrawn their main vaccine factory in Belgium could “grind to a halt”.
The warning from Pfizer comes as Emmanuel Macron supported a threat by Ursula von der Leyen to seize factories, waive patents and ban vaccine exports to the UK unless Boris Johnson surrendered British-made AstraZeneca jabs to the EU.
However, one senior UK Government source said the chance that Britain would retaliate by blocking its own exports of vaccine components to the EU were low.
It is understood that Pfizer, and its partner BioNTech, have privately communicated their concerns to the European Commission that a vaccine ban on the UK would risk provoking Westminster to block vital supplies.
Pfizer has said it has a shortage of the lipid nanoparticles that are used to coat its fragile MRNA vaccine.
A senior Pfizer source warned the company was “heavily dependent” on supplies of these lipid nanoparticle ingredients from the UK.
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The source said: “They told the commission that if the UK shuts down the lipids then the whole process grinds to a halt in weeks.”
The Yorkshire firm, Croda, also has a factory owned by a subsidiary in Alabama and has been assisting Pfizer to adjust the storage temperature of its vaccine so that the doses can be stored in a standard refrigerator.
To diversify its supply chain, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has announced contracts with the Germany-based companies Evonik and Merck KGaA.
The German companies will be able to scale up the supply of lipid nanoparticles to Pfizer.
However, Pfizer has said it would take up to eight months to boost production in these German factories.
A Pfizer spokesman said: “We have been clear with all stakeholders that the free movement of goods and supply across borders is critical to Pfizer and the patients we serve.
“We are working closely with governments around the world, including the UK Government and the European Commission, to ensure the supply of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in accordance with the agreed schedules.”