The European Commission is close to finalising a deal to purchase up to 300m doses of a potential vaccine against COVID-19, it has been revealed.
On Tuesday, a Commission spokesman confirmed that talks about signing a contract with the two firms were “very close to being finalised.”
A formal announcement is expected on Wednesday, he said.
On Monday, early results from the world’s first effective Coronavirus vaccine showed it could prevent more than 90 percent of people from contracting COVID-19.
The vaccine - called an RNA vaccine - has been developed by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech and is one of 11 vaccines that are currently in the final stages of testing.
The companies now plan to apply for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of November and a limited number of people may get the vaccine this year.
Speaking to reporters, the Commission spokesman said, “It is important to guarantee the safety of any vaccine and also to have the endorsement by European Medicines Agency which will undertake a thorough assessment of the safety of any vaccine.”
“We are trying to put the finishing touches to the contract with these two companies. The Commission is also in talks with various other companies about a vaccine.”
“These are pre-purchase agreements under which we would reserve a certain amount of vaccines for Member States, provided that that vaccine is proven to be successful.”
He added, “We are helping companies to fund investment to develop vaccines but it is then up to Member States to put the finishing touches to any agreement in terms of deciding the dosages that they need and how it is distributed.”
He said, “In September we agreed in principle with the companies to make 300m doses available. We will announce the results of these talks on Wednesday and whether a contract will be signed. It then up to Member States to decide how much they want to buy. But Wednesday is the key in setting the conditions under which Member States will be able to buy vaccines according to their needs.”
“We are trying to put the finishing touches to the contract with these two companies. The Commission is also in talks with various other companies about a vaccine” European Commission spokesman
The Covid vaccine is the fastest ever vaccine to go from the drawing board to being proven highly effective.
Pfizer, an American pharma group, says its mRNA vaccine was found to prevent 90 percent of infections in clinical trials, a much better performance than most experts had hoped for.
In phase 3 of testing, the vaccine is given to thousands of people to confirm its safety – including rare side effects – and effectiveness. These trials involve a control group which is given a placebo.
The WHO said it does not expect widespread vaccinations against Coronavirus until mid-2021
On September 9, the Commission concluded preliminary discussions with BioNTech-Pfizer for the initial purchase of 300m doses on behalf of all EU Member States, as well as an option for the purchase of up to 100m additional doses, to be provided once the safety and efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine has been demonstrated.
At the time, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said this was the sixth pharmaceutical company with which it had concluded discussions or signed an agreement concerning potential vaccines, adding that this had been done “in record time.”
She said, “Our chances of developing and deploying a safe and effective vaccine have never been greater, both for Europeans and for the rest of the world. To beat the Coronavirus anywhere, we have to beat it everywhere.”
Her Coronavirus adviser Peter Piot said that the vaccine exceeded his expectations, adding, “If several other vaccines are going to be in the same range then we can really start thinking about going back to normal.”
BioNTech-Pfizer is the sixth company with which the Commission has concluded discussions, after Sanofi-GSK on July 31, Johnson & Johnson on August 13, CureVac on August 18 and Moderna on August 24. The first contract, signed with AstraZeneca, came into effect on August 27.