The European Commission has agreed to buy another 200 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by BioNTech and Pfizer.
It said it also has an option to acquire another 100 million doses, enabling the EU to purchase up to 600 million doses of the vaccine.
The additional 200 million doses comes on top of the 300 million already ordered from BioNTech and Pfizer and will be delivered starting in the Spring.
The Commission has also signed deals with AstraZeneca (400 million doses), Sanofi-GSK (300 million doses), Johnson and Johnson (400 million doses), CureVac (405 million doses) and Moderna (160 million doses).
At a news conference to announce the deal, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, said there were now 2.3 billion doses of vaccines on order from six pharmaceutical companies, including BioNTech and Pfizer.
“We have agreed to double the number of the BioNTech and Pfizer vaccine,” She said, adding that this would make it possible to vaccinate Europe’s 450 million population and also those from its near neighbours.
“They also need our support,” she told reporters, adding. “It shows that we now have more than sufficient doses, but we should think not just of ourselves but others who need our support,” she stressed.
“We have agreed to double the number of the BioNTech and Pfizer vaccine. This shows that we now have more than sufficient doses, but we should think not just of ourselves but others who need our support” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen
The Commission has come under fire recently, not least over claims that Germany conducted its own agreement with BioNTech and Pfizer for 30 million doses solely for German people.
On this, she said, “We all agreed to work to a legal binding frame work on vaccine procurement. We are all working together on this. We do this together and no Member State is allowed to hold parallel negotiations, or have a parallel contract.”
She said it was now up to Member States “to move forward” with their vaccination plans.
Von der Leyen added, “The start of this was always going to be difficult. It is a logistical challenge but it is impressive to see how fast Member States are moving on this. Advances can be made now we have these additional does and we will be monitoring the vaccination process in member states with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.”
She told reporters, “Of course, we must now step this up and rapidly increase the number of vaccinations but we must also learn the lessons from this.”
She insisted the EU had taken the “right steps” and pointed out that in December, BioNTech and Pfizer said it was halving their vaccine supplies.
“We were faced with huge demand but production capacity did not keep pace with this. Now, we have a positive step forward and production is being expanded. On the basis of this, we agreed to extend the contract with BioNTech and Pfizer.
“I realise we need vaccinations now and that is why we have, today, signed this contact to increase the number of doses. I am convinced, though that when we look back at this one day we will see that at the start there was a bumpy road and that was always going to be the case but that our strategy was the right one” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen
“It was right to bet on this particular horse and to include BioNTech and Pfizer in our portfolio of 6 vaccines. This point is constantly overlooked but we are now reaping the benefits.”
She added, “It is not possible to vaccinate everyone and there will be some difficult months until the spring.”
She pointed to “two trends”: the “slow” process of vaccinations and, second, rising infections, as a “matter of great concern.”
“I realise we need vaccinations now and that is why we have, today, signed this contact to increase the number of doses.”
“I am convinced, though that when we look back at this one day we will see that at the start there was a bumpy road and that was always going to be the case but that our strategy was the right one.”
She said “Our portfolio now covers 2.3 billion doses of vaccines, more than enough to vaccinate the whole of Europe.
“Let me be clear: The EU is providing safe and effective vaccines in more than enough numbers and not just for member states but also for our neighbours.”