As COVID-19 continues to rage worldwide, health authorities worry that a perfect storm of the novel coronavirus, pneumonia and seasonal flu could overtake hospital systems. Now, two major pneumococcal vaccines are already seeing shortages in the EU, which could be an ill omen for the coming months.
Merck & Co.’s Pneumovax 23 and Pfizer’s Prevnar 13 are facing shortages in Europe as researchers try both pneumococcal vaccines as a preventative measure against COVID-19, Reuters reported.
Despite supply running normally in the U.S., a swath of European countries have been forced to ration both vaccines as the cold winter months approach and hospital systems fear a double-wave of COVID-19 and pneumonia patients. That “unprecedented surge in demand,” according to a Merck spokeswoman, has put both drugmakers in a major supply pinch.
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“Despite our best efforts, global demand continues to exceed available supply in some markets,” the spokeswoman said in an email. “We are continuing to assess the situation closely and are working to make as much supply available as possible to countries around the world.”
With spot shortages mounting, Pfizer assured it has a “healthy supply of available global inventory” for Prevnar and “has further ramped up production to ensure there are no systemic issues,” a Pfizer spokeswoman said in an email.
In Italy, supplies of both vaccines are so scarce a source told Reuters they are “practically impossible to find.” The country has authorized a temporary plan for pharmacies to buy the vaccines abroad in the meantime.
Meanwhile, Germany raised the minimum age for elderly vaccine use from 60 to 70 in a move to limit demand. The nation reached a deal to divert batches of Pneumovax from Japan and said it may not see prefilled syringes of the vaccine until January.