Germany to build up reserve vaccine capacity to fight future pandemics


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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: German Health Minister Jens Spahn attends a press conference on the situation of COVID-19 pandemic in the country, in Berlin, Germany May 12, 2021. Tobias Schwarz/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

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BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany plans to pay vaccine manufacturers an annual reservation fee to build up reserve capacity of 600-700 million doses per year to help it fight future pandemics, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Wednesday.

The government plans to launch a call for tenders for so-called pandemic preparedness contracts with a five-year term, he told a news conference.

“We in the government have agreed that we want to provide capacity for production of vaccines in and for Germany,” Spahn said, adding this could be activated very quickly so that vaccine production could start at short notice.

Manufacturing setbacks and an over-reliance on European Union approval for supplies slowed Germany’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. It wants to boost domestic production to ensure it is not deprived of shots in future pandemics.

In February, it set up a vaccine production task force with the aim of building up domestic production and reducing bottlenecks in the supply chain.

Germany will also set up a centre for pandemic vaccines at its vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, Spahn said.

Germany is home to BioNTech and CureVac, two of the leading developers of mRNA vaccines for COVID-19, as well as pharmaceutical giants Bayer (DE:) and Merck and many small-and-medium-sized suppliers.

The German plan is one of more than half a dozen by governments around the world to avert shortages by supporting drug companies’ local production.

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Some, including Australia, Brazil, Japan and Thailand, are setting up manufacturing partnerships with drugmaker AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:) PLC.

Elsewhere, Italy has pledged state backing for a public-private vaccine production centre, while Austria, Denmark and Israel plan a joint research and development fund and will explore whether to produce their own next-generation vaccines.

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