Pfizer Inc’s shipment of its COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico this week includes doses made in its United States plant, the first of what are expected to be ongoing exports of its shots from the US, a source familiar with the matter has told the Reuters news agency.
The vaccine shipment, produced at Pfizer’s Kalamazoo plant in the state of Michigan, marks the first time the drugmaker has delivered abroad from US facilities after a Trump-era restriction on dose exports expired at the end of March, the source said on Thursday.
The US government has been under mounting pressure in recent weeks to provide surplus vaccines to other nations desperately in need as it makes swift progress vaccinating its own residents. Many countries where the virus is still rampant are struggling to acquire vaccine supplies to help tame the pandemic.
Wealthy governments have been trying to stock up on COVID-19 shots from Pfizer and Moderna Inc because of their extremely high efficacy and after safety concerns and production problems temporarily sidelined vaccines from AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson & Johnson.
Pfizer has shipped more than 10 million doses to Mexico so far, becoming its largest supplier of COVID-19 vaccine.
Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE have been supplying other countries with doses from its main European production plant in Belgium.
Mexico’s health ministry said it is receiving two million doses from Pfizer this week. It has received more than one million doses from Belgium since Wednesday and expects about another million this week. Reuters could not confirm if all the remaining Pfizer doses would come from Michigan.
Pfizer will use extra capacity in its US facilities to deliver shots abroad while continuing to meet its commitment to supply the US, the source said, adding that the drug manufacturer will also make shipments from Belgium.
Pfizer has said it will be making up to 25 million shots each week in the US by mid-year, which is more than it needs to meet its commitment to deliver 300 million doses to the US by the end of July.
The company expects to produce as many as 2.5 billion vaccine doses in 2021 and already has agreements to supply more than a billion to governments around the world.
A deal Pfizer signed with the White House last year had barred it from shipping doses made in the US to other countries until after March 31, according to the source and a US official, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
The US vaccination campaign has been among the quickest and most successful in the world, with nearly 240 million shots administered to more than 140 million residents so far, according to federal data updated on Thursday.
The White House on Monday said it would export up to 60 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine that have been made in a US facility to countries in need.
Officials said on Monday the US no longer anticipates needing the AstraZeneca vaccine to meet its goal of having enough shots for all Americans by the northern-hemisphere summer.
The US government on Sunday said it will immediately ship raw materials for COVID-19 vaccines, medical equipment and protective gear to India, which has become the latest epicentre of the pandemic with its health system on the brink of collapse. It has not yet promised finished vaccine shipments to India.