The European Commission says it has agreed to purchase up to 1.8 billion doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine – the largest supply deal in the world – amid concerns over unequal access for the world’s poorest nations .
Additional doses of the vaccine developed by US pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech will be delivered from 2021 to 2023, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a briefing on Friday, adding that they will be used as booster shots.
The quantity of doses ordered of the two-dose Comirnaty vaccine would be sufficient to inoculate the EU population of 450 million people twice. A commission spokesperson told Reuters that half of the vaccines would be optional.
This is the third contract between the EU and Pfizer / BioNTech, with supplies of 600 million doses agreed under the previous two contracts.
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“We will conclude in the next few days. It will ensure the doses needed to administer booster shots to boost immunity “, von der Leyen said during a visit to Pfizer’s vaccine plant in Belgium.
The agreement comes when the World Health Organization denounced the inequality in the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. In a report released on Friday, marking a year since the launch of the COVAX international dose-sharing facility, the WHO chief said vaccines remain out of reach for poorer countries.
“Nearly 900 million doses of the vaccine have been administered globally, but over 81% went to high- or middle-income countries, while low-income countries only received 0.3%,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The agreement follows EMA’s recent findings that two other vaccines, that of AstraZeneca and that of Johnson & Johnson, could be linked to very rare but potentially fatal cases of blood clotting in some people. Both vaccines are based on viral vector technology, while Pfizer / BioNTech’s uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.
The European Commission is also looking to stop cooperation with AstraZeneca after the British-Swedish company cut its delivery targets due to production problems.
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