EU confirms Pfizer to deliver 75m extra vaccine doses

Additional supply part of deal announced by European Commission president last month

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech will deliver 75 million extra doses of their Covid-19 vaccine in the second quarter of the year, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said. Photograph: Michael Ciaglo/Getty

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech will deliver 75 million extra doses of their Covid-19 vaccine in the second quarter of the year, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said. Photograph: Michael Ciaglo/Getty

 

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech will deliver 75 million extra doses of their Covid-19 vaccine in the second quarter of the year, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday.

“BioNTech/Pfizer will deliver 75 million of additional doses in the second quarter of the year – and up to 600 million in total in 2021,” Dr von der Leyen wrote on Twitter after a furore last week over an overall shortfall of doses for the bloc.

The additional Pfizer-BioNTech doses are part of a deal the European Union announced on January 8th, which would give the EU nearly half the firms’ global output for 2021.

Pfizer has said it can produce up to 1.3 billion doses around the world this year. The company has said 500 million doses would be available to the EU by the end of this year, and an option for another 100 million could be taken up.

The announcement came after the commission said it would receive an additional nine million vaccine doses this quarter from AstraZeneca.

An offer of eight million doses from the British-based pharma group last week as part of efforts to calm a growing row over supplies before the vaccine was approved by the European Medicines Agency had been rebuffed by the EU as “not nearly enough”.

Pfizer has announced very unusual agreements with rivals Sanofi and Novartis in recent days that will see those two companies produce millions of doses on Pfizer’s behalf.

Each recipient of the Pfizer vaccine needs two doses to develop maximum protection.

Scrambling

The EU, whose member states are far behind Israel, Britain and the United States in rolling out vaccines, is scrambling to get supplies of vaccines for its 450 million people, just as the West’s biggest drugmakers slow deliveries to the bloc due to production problems.

News of the extra doses came shortly after the EU said it was taking steps to bolster its pandemic preparedness, citing the risk posed by Covid variants that reduce the efficacy of vaccines.

Dr von der Leyen held a video call on Sunday with chief executives of pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca and Moderna, to discuss how vaccines could be more rapidly deployed, manufactured and approved in the future.

“The pandemic highlighted that manufacturing capacities are a limiting factor. It is essential to address these challenges,” the commission said in a statement after the call.

It added that “the emergence of variants of concern raises the imminent threat of reduced efficacy of recently approved vaccines”.

Sunday’s discussion between Dr von der Leyen and the pharmaceutical executives focused on the EU’s longer-term health strategy and preparedness. Inspired by early stumbles in curbing the spread of the coronavirus last year, the push for a common approach aims to guard against a patchwork of national responses to any future health scares.

The discussion follows proposals by the commission last November to beef up the EU’s health agencies, after the pandemic overwhelmed the continent’s hospitals and left countries struggling with supply shortages.

The plans included giving more clout to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Medicines Agency. Also included in the meeting were executives from BioNTech, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, CureVac and Sanofi, according to the statement. – (Reuters/Bloomberg)