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VACCINE

BioNTech starts Covid-19 vaccine production at new German site

German Covid-19 vaccine maker BioNTech said Wednesday it has started production at its new facility in Marburg, expected to significantly boost the EU's vaccine supply.

BioNTech starts Covid-19 vaccine production at new German site
A Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is administered at a vaccine site in Bielefeld on Monday. Photo: DPA

“We have started the first step of vaccine production in our production facility in Marburg,” the company said in a statement.

The factory, whose launch was fast-tracked by German authorities, will produce mRNA, the active ingredient in BioNTech's vaccine developed with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

It will then be purified and concentrated before being transported to a “production partner” to be finished.

READ ALSO: Germany's BioNTech racing to ramp up vaccine production

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will carry out quality checks in February or March.

“The first vaccines produced at the Marburg site are expected to be delivered at the beginning of April,” BioNTech said.

The main European factory for producing the vaccine is Pfizer's plant in Puurs, Belgium.

Once fully operational, the new Marburg site in Hesse state will be one of the largest mRNA production facilities in Europe, with an annual production capacity of up to 750 million vaccine doses.

BioNTech plans to produce up to 250 million doses there in the first half of 2021.

“We continue to work with Pfizer on a series of measures to meet global demand,” said the company, confirming its goal of delivering two billion doses in 2021.

BioNTech bought the Marburg plant from Swiss pharma giant Novartis last year to ramp up vaccine production, and retained the 300 employees already working there.

READ ALSO: How BioNTech and Germany's Mittelstand worked together on the vaccine

BioNTech had announced in mid-January that it would have to delay shipments of the jabs to the EU due to necessary modifications at the Puurs factory, sparking ire across the bloc.

But the company said in early February it would meet its contractual commitments for the first quarter and pledged to send up to 75 million extra doses to the bloc in the spring.

The EU has ordered a total of 600 million doses of BioNTech and Pfizer's so-called Comirnaty vaccine.

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CULTURE

‘People liked the silence’: How Berlin’s club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Berlin's clubs are suffering from staff shortages, a lack of guests... and neighbours who've grown used to the silence, representatives for the scene say.

'People liked the silence': How Berlin's club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Some operators from Berlin’s club scene are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn. For months now, people have been allowed to dance again and life has returned to normal in the dark corners of Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.

But the clubs have far from recovered from the pandemic. They face staff shortages, rising prices and the prospect of a return to Covid restrictions in the autumn.

“We go into the autumn with huge fear, because the omens are totally unfavorable,” said association head Pamela Schobeß.

Spring and summer went anything but smoothly, she said. “There has been an oversupply of events. People aren’t going out as much, and some are still afraid to move around indoors.”

Money is also an issue. “A lot of people are afraid of rising energy prices.”

The industry lost workers during the pandemic and it’s hard to convince them to come back with the outlook for the autumn looking so gloomy, Schobeß says.

Her colleague Robin Schellenberg tells a similar story. People have switched to various other jobs and would even rather work on a supermarket checkout, which may have been considered less sexy in the past. Now, he says, some have learned to love not having to work nights.

READ ALSO: 

Schellenberg runs the Klunkerkranich, a small club on a parking garage deck in Neukölln. Because a number of things have become more expensive, they have also had to increase their admission prices.

His impression is that people are going out less often and are deciding more spontaneously. In addition, people in the neighborhood are now more sensitive to noise. “Many people found the silence very enticing,” he said.

Some in the industry wonder what will happen next. Will club admission have to become much more expensive? Will that exclude people who can no longer afford it? And what happens if Covid infection numbers rise sharply?

If masks become mandatory indoors in October, Schobeß believes that would be bad for the clubs. “Even if we don’t get shut down by the state, we’ll actually have to close down independently ourselves,” she reckons.

Masks take all the joy out of the experience, she says. People have drinks in their hands and are “jumping around and dancing” and then security guards have to tell them “please put your mask on.”

The federal government is considering whether states should be able to make masks mandatory indoors starting in October. Exceptions should be possible, such as at cultural and sporting events, for people who have been tested, recently vaccinated and recently recovered.

In the event that Covid numbers soar, the states could then be allowed to tighten the rules and eliminate all exemptions.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music

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