Italy in Talks for Vaccine-Making Hubs With State Funding
(Bloomberg) -- The government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi is in discussions to set up vaccine production hubs in Italy using state funding, according to the director-general of the nation’s drug regulator.
Nicola Magrini, head of the Italian Medicines Agency, or AIFA, told Bloomberg in an interview the government is considering financing the project with about 200 million euros. The Covid-19 vaccine will be one of those approved by the European Medicines Agency, he said, declining to say which one.
“There are very advanced talks,” Magrini, 59, a former scientist at the World Health Organization, said at his Rome office on Monday. The aim is to start production in the fourth quarter, he said, adding that manufacturing will be start-to-finish, “going beyond fill-and-finish capacity, and producing the actual bulk.”
Italy’s attempt to build up domestic capacity comes as Draghi raises pressure on drugmakers to speed up vaccine deliveries, talking regularly to chief executive officers to seek additional supplies and bring deliveries forward, officials said.
Target at Risk
With a lockdown weighing on the devastated economy, the government risks missing its latest target of 500,000 vaccinations a day by the end of this month. Italy has slipped behind partners including Germany and France on inoculations, mainly because of supply delays from AstraZeneca Plc.
Supply delays have prompted tensions with regional leaders. Vincenzo De Luca, governor of the Naples area, vowed to boycott meetings with the Rome government if he doesn’t receive 200,000 doses he has been promised by the end of the month, according to newspaper Corriere della Sera.
The destination for Italy’s planned vaccine output will be worked out with the European Union, Magrini said.
He insisted that the government’s objective of half a million daily inoculations is still within reach. “By the end of April, probably yes,” he said. “Our capacity to reach it has mainly been limited by the limited number of vaccines available.”
Underscoring the difficulty of meeting the goal, Italy is targeting about 315,000 daily shots between April 16 and April 22, according to a statement Monday by General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, who was picked by Draghi to head the pandemic emergency response.
Magrini said his agency had given the government “a sort of green light” to extend to 42 days the interval before second shots for the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna Inc. vaccines, from 21 and 28 days, respectively. He added the shorter interval remains preferable.
He lamented the lack of international cooperation on procuring doses, denouncing what he called “vaccine greed that some countries have shown, including the U.S., the U.K. and Israel.”
“I think we should all have been more united in a global effort rather than each country acting on its own to secure vaccines, without any sense of solidarity,” Magrini said.
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