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French pharma takes up vital stage of EU Covid-19 vaccine production

15% of the doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines bottled at factory in northwest France will be injected into French arms

Covid-19 vaccines bottled in France should be available for use in about a month after they have been granted approval.

The vital and difficult step in the production process - putting the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine into vials - began on Wednesday, April 7, President Emmanuel Macron announced on Twitter.

French company Delpharm is in charge of the filling the vials, and the packaging and sanitising phase of production - part of a complex system that involves companies across Europe. It confirmed that production had begun, as France aims to produce 250million doses by the end of the year.

The vaccine was delivered in bulk from BioNTech's plant in Marburg, Germany.

Read more: Covidliste: Get a Covid vaccination from leftover doses in France

Several sites in Germany had been involved in the production process of the vaccine prior to its arrival at Marburg.

Delpharm recruited about 50 people at its Eure-et-Loir site to handle the workload. “We have purchased 55 freezers and five tonnes of dry ice will be necessary to ensure the shipment of each batch of vaccine at -70C,” Stéphane Lepeu, Delpharm's deputy CEO, told French business magazine Challenges.

After approval, the vaccines will be used across Europe and exported further afield. France should receive about 15% of the final product, the company confirmed.

Read more: When will life return to normal in France after Covid-19?

In a few days, Recipharm will begin to bottle Moderna vaccines in Indre-et-Loire. At the end of May, French pharmaceutical company Fareva will take care of the CureVac vaccine - which is not yet approved in the EU - in the Eure and in the Pyrénées-Atlantique.

Sanofi expects to start bottling Johnson & Johnson vaccines at a plant near Lyon from early summer. 

The AstraZeneca vaccine is not bottled in France and there are currently no plans to do so.

Read more: Coronavirus: Daily updates on the situation in France

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