The European Commission has secured hundreds of millions of additional doses and vowed to accelerate authorisation of vaccines targeting coronavirus variants as it sought to put its inoculations campaign back on track.
The EU’s executive arm on Wednesday announced a major new order with Moderna for 150 million more doses, for delivery this year. It also finalised an agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech for 200 million more doses of their Covid-19 vaccine, also for this year.
The new Moderna order includes a total of additional purchase of 300 million doses – 150 million in 2021 and an option to purchase an additional 150 million in 2022 – on behalf of all EU member states.
The additional doses for this year will be delivered in the second half of the year, according to Moderna.
The moves lock in a second-quarter supply boost as countries struggle to speed up their immunisation drives. They come as the Commission announced policy plans to accelerate research, authorisation, procurement and distribution for vaccines that fight variants of the coronavirus.
“New variants of the virus are emerging in Europe and around the world” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels. “ Up until now, the vaccines that have been approved in Europe appear to be effective against these new variants but these variants are more infectious so there will be more infections and that means more variants.”
The additional order from Pfizer and BioNTech significantly increases the number of doses available from the two companies for the bloc’s 27 member states. The contract includes a firm order for 200 million shots, with an option to request an additional 100 million, which could double the EU’s overall supply from the companies.
As many as 75 million doses from the order will be shipped in the second quarter, Dr von der Leyen said when the deal was first announced in January.
“We appreciate the European Commission’s confidence in Moderna and our mRNA platform,” said Moderna chief executive Stéphane Bancel. “The European Commission is in discussions with us on how to prepare for 2022, including addressing potential variants. Moderna is committed to working relentlessly to bring to market vaccine boosts with the relevant variants to address this global pandemic.”
EU countries are far behind the US and UK in the race to vaccinate as many people as possible, even as faster-spreading variants of the virus gain a stronger foothold on the continent.
The vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have a shot based on messenger RNA technology. Unlike more conventional vaccines, the mRNA shots can be modified within weeks if necessary to protect against mutant versions of the virus. – Bloomberg