By John Miller
ZURICH (Reuters) – Moderna has warned Switzerland that its COVID-19 vaccine deliveries would be delayed, the Swiss health ministry said on Thursday, leading to February shortfalls that the country expects the U.S. company to make up in March.
The delays follow European supply issues with vaccine maker AstraZeneca, as well as Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, as demand for COVID-19 shots is sky high but supplies remain tight and production limited.
Switzerland, which has received a combined 531,600 vaccines so far from Moderna and from Pfizer and BioNTech, said it still expects first-quarter vaccine deliveries to meet their contractual requirements.
It had hoped to get 1 million doses in February, though with Moderna’s delay it could miss that target.
The Swiss Federal Health Ministry did not give a reason for the delays, referring questions to Moderna.
Moderna did not return messages seeking comment.
The delay to Moderna’s shipments was first reported by Swiss newspaper Blick, which said a planned 300,000-dose shipment due Feb. 1 would likely fall short.
Some of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, like European countries, have already received fewer Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine doses than they had planned, leading them to alter vaccination schedules.
“The next shipments from Pfizer and Moderna arrive in the first week of February,” a Swiss Federal Health Ministry spokeswoman told Reuters.
“The cantons will be informed soon so they can plan their vaccination activities.”
Switzerland, with 8.6 million people, hopes to vaccinate everyone who wants a COVID-19 shot by summer.
Swiss contract drugmaker Lonza, which manufactures ingredients for Moderna’s mRNA vaccine, said on Wednesday it may be “a couple of months” before new Swiss plants dedicated to producing the shots will be at “cruising speed”.
Moderna’s Europe-bound vaccine must make a winding journey from Lonza in Switzerland to fill-and-finish facilities in Spain, before being trucked to a Belgian logistics center, from where it is distributed to individual countries.
(Reporting by John Miller; editing by Jason Neely and Hugh Lawson)
Originally published January 28, 2021, 9:36 PM