(Adds detail, context on latest BioNTech production forecast)
BERLIN, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Baxter International aims to start making the COVID-19 vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer in Germany within weeks, it said on Wednesday, joining efforts to ramp up output of the first such vaccine to win widespread approval from regulators.
The U.S. healthcare group plans to start production at its facility in Halle, North Rhine-Westphalia, in late February or early March, said Juergen Fleischer, personnel chief at Baxter Germany.
“We are still in the process of converting the production facility for the demands of BioNTech’s deep-frozen product,” he told Reuters.
Fleischer declined to go into exact detail but said the 18-month contract would cover hundreds of millions of doses.
It will be possible to convert the facility to produce the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine - which must be stored at super-low temperatures of around minus 70 Celsius (minus 94 Fahrenheit) - without seeking state aid, he added.
Baxter International announced on Monday that it will also make vaccines for Novavax at the Halle site. The Novavax shot has yet to win regulatory approval.
BioNTech, a German biotech startup, partnered with Pfizer of the United States to roll out its vaccine which is in huge demand from governments seeking to protect their populations against the new coronavirus.
BioNTech is also working to bring a facility in the German town of Marburg into production by the end of February, and has just raised its 2020 production forecast to 2 billion doses from 1.3 billion previously.
Marburg will add new capacity of 750 million doses, while extracting an extra sixth dose from its vaccine vials - now allowed by regulators - will add the rest. (Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Maria Sheahan and Douglas Busvine, editing by Kirsti Knolle and Elaine Hardcastle)
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