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Pfizer, BioNTech Race to Meet Global Covid-19 Vaccine Needs

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MAINZ, Germany—The chief executive of the German company partnering with

Pfizer Inc.

PFE -0.84%

in its coronavirus vaccine effort said the two are racing to increase production to meet the world’s needs, assuming the shot wins a regulatory green light.

The two companies are now scrambling to scale up their manufacturing capacities, said Ugur Sahin, CEO of


BNTX 4.05%

SE. Both companies said they are confident they will be able to deliver all the doses they have already agreed to provide to governments, including the U.S. and the European Union.

BioNTech and Pfizer are among a handful of companies in advanced stages of testing their vaccine. They committed to supplying over 450 million doses this year and next year, contingent on late-stage trials showing the vaccine to be safe and effective, and governments give the go-ahead for its use.

Latest on the Race for a Covid-19 Vaccine

The U.S. government placed an initial order of 100 million doses, with the option to purchase 500 million additional doses. The EU ordered 200 million doses with an option for another 100 million. The government of Japan ordered 120 million doses, and Britain ordered 30 million.

All orders are subject to regulatory approval, and only the price of the U.S. deal—$1.95 billion—has been disclosed so far.

BioNTech and Pfizer previously set a target to produce up to 100 million vaccines globally by the end of this year. Dr. Sahin didn’t break down where those first doses would go among its global government customers. That initial batch would only be enough for 50 million people, though, because the vaccine, known as BNT162, consists of two shots, a so-called prime vaccination and a booster. The two companies haven’t disclosed how many doses they have already made.

After these promised doses are delivered, “then we will enter a struggle to provide it” more widely, Dr. Sahin said. “There are gigantic amounts of vaccine doses that need to be supplied to the people, and this is a huge task which will take time.”

BioNTech earlier this year developed over 20 vaccine candidates.


Andreas Arnold/DPA/Zuma Press

Dr. Sahin said the two companies are ramping up production and building a global logistics network to continue supplying doses beyond those already sold. The German company said in September it had purchased a large manufacturing facility in the German city of Marburg from

Novartis AG

NVS -2.33%

. The plant, Dr. Sahin said, is expected to ramp up Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing capacity to 750 million doses a year by late 2021.

Pfizer, too, has been scaling up manufacturing for months, ordering new equipment and buying raw materials. It plans to make the U.S.-bound doses at a plant in Kalamazoo, Mich., and is using a factory in Puurs, Belgium, for the most of the rest of the world.

Final-stage trials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could begin furnishing data later this month that regulators will need to make a call about whether to authorize it for emergency use.

“I believe we have a very good vaccine candidate, but we now need to work together on expanding a supply infrastructure that would make the vaccine available globally, so everyone who wants a vaccine could get a vaccine,” Dr. Sahin said.

Mike McDermott, Pfizer’s global-supply president, said in a separate interview that the company is confident in delivering the 100 million doses it has promised this year.

“Phase one is get your initial doses out to at-risk populations and the uptick will be rather quick…In that first phase, we are very comfortable with the supply that we’ve built, meaning the number of doses we can make we believe will be quite effective for those populations,” Mr. McDermott said, referring to high-risk populations such as health-care workers.

Mr. McDermott said that in the second phase of rolling out the vaccine, aimed at mid-2021, the goal is to have the vaccine in physicians’ offices or local pharmacies around the world.

Dr. Sahin said BioNTech is also talking to other manufacturers to expand production, together with Pfizer. Mr. McDermott said Pfizer could potentially free up space in its own manufacturing network to boost vaccine production, but also said there is an opportunity for other companies to help produce the vaccine.

BioNTech, a company based and founded here by Dr. Sahin and his wife Özlem Türeci, earlier this year developed over 20 vaccine candidates based on the novel mRNA technology that seeks to program the body to create a protein that would help it combat the coronavirus.

In March, the company teamed up with Pfizer, building on an earlier partnership to jointly develop an mRNA-based influenza vaccine. In July, the companies began the late-stage trial of the candidate that it deemed most promising.

BioNTech’s partnership with Pfizer covers the entire global market except China, where it partners with

Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Co.

600196 0.35%

China’s autonomous territories Hong Kong and Macau have already ordered 10 million doses.

Write to Bojan Pancevski at and Jared S. Hopkins at

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