EU in talks to secure 1.8 bn additional Pfizer vaccines

Commissioner says ramping up of production ’now a reality’ and hopes Curevac vaccine will be approved by early June

European Commissioner for Internal Markets Thierry Breton, confident that response to pandemic will be aided by availability of additional vaccines. File photograph: Hannelore Foerster/Bloomberg

European Commissioner for Internal Markets Thierry Breton, confident that response to pandemic will be aided by availability of additional vaccines. File photograph: Hannelore Foerster/Bloomberg

 

The European Commission is planning to obtain 1.8 billion extra Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines up until 2023 in order to tackle potentially dangerous variants, an Oireachtas committee heard today.

EU Commissioner for Internal Markets Thierry Breton, a key figure in increasing vaccine production, told the Committee on European Affairs that the ramping-up of coronavirus vaccine provision “is now a reality.”

“No country can do this alone. Therefore, I am convinced that European solidarity is the only way to avoid vaccine nationalism. The industrial ramp-up is a reality. Since January, EU vaccine deliveries have doubled every month.

“In addition, our factories are producing for the world. The reason is clear: it is in our collective interest to avoid the development of variants elsewhere. This task is today on the shoulders of the EU,” he said.

By the end of the year, the EU is expected to have an annual production capacity in the EU of over 3 billion doses.

“And the work does not stop here. We need to prepare for the emergence of COVID variants. As part of the so-called “Hera Incubator”, the Commission is negotiating with Pfizer-BioNTech for 1.8 billion supplementary doses until 2023,” he said.

Mr Breton expressed confidence that EU member states will meet the aim of vaccinating 70 per cent of adults by mid-July. In Ireland the aim is to have 80 per cent of adults offered a first vaccine dose by the end of June.

On the digital green certificate to enable easier travel between member states, Mr Breton said it will contain very simple information and the same format will apply across the EU. He said it will be a tool and will not be mandatory.

Mr Breton said that funding will be made available to member states who want to develop it and that technical teams are available to help with this work.

Asked about the availability of other vaccines, he said that the next aim is for an EU decision on the Curevac vaccine by the end of May or the beginning of June. The Curevac vaccine would be stable at standard refrigerator temperatures for at least three months and could significantly bolster the pandemic response.

Data from clinical trials is expected in the coming weeks and there is growing optimism about its use given it will likely have been tested at a time when a range of coronavirus variants are in circulation.