State to receive 545,000 extra Pfizer vaccine doses under EU deal
EU to receive 50 million additional Pfizer BioNTech vaccines in second quarter
The EU commission said on Wednesday that an extra 50 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine would be received in the second quarter as deliveries are brought forward. Photograph: Luis Acosta/AFP via Getty
European Union countries will receive 50 million more Covid-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer and BioNTech in the second quarter of 2021, the head of the EU commission said on Wednesday, as deliveries expected at the end of the year are brought forward.
Ursula von der Leyen said the earlier deliveries, which will start this month, will take total supplies to the EU from Pfizer to 250 million doses in the second quarter of this year.
It means Ireland should receive about 545,000 extra doses of the vaccine and could ease pressure on the State caused by concerns surrounding the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Ms von der Leyen also confirmed the Commission was in talks with the two companies for a new contract for 1.8 billion doses to be delivered in 2022 and 2023, confirming a Reuters report last week.
The EU has already signed two contracts with Pfizer and BioNTech for a total of 600 million doses to be delivered this year.
The Government has been left scrambling to reorganise its response to the Covid-19 pandemic after both the vaccination and quarantine programmes suffered major setbacks on Tuesday.
Following advice from its vaccination experts, the Government accepted restrictions on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, only to be told later that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had encountered similar difficulties in the US and its European rollout was being paused.
The double blow threw the planned vaccination programme into doubt, and is likely to mean significantly fewer vaccines administered this month at least. Ministers are awaiting word from the HSE about the exact consequences for the programme on Wednesday, but there is extreme concern in Government about the unfolding delays.
Government sources said one option would be to space out the doses between vaccines still being administered. A source said that in common with all issues on vaccination, it would be considered by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC), but the idea could prove attractive to both Government and the HSE.
Health sources said that mixing of different doses would be considered, as would the rapid rollout of AstraZeneca to the 60-69-year age group in an effort to keep momentum in the programme.
After the vaccine setbacks, Mr Donnelly announced last night that the State’s mandatory hotel quarantine system would not accept any new bookings until Monday, because of fears the system is reaching capacity.
Passengers arriving without pre-bookings were adding further pressure at a time when 16 countries, including France and the US, are due to be added to the list tomorrow. – Reuters