The European Commission says it expects to conclude the world’s largest vaccine deal within days, purchasing up to 1.8 billion doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine over the next two years, as debate rages over. unfair access to injections for the poorest people in the world.
Vaccines from US pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech will be delivered in the period 2021-2023, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during a visit to Pfizer’s vaccine plant in Puurs, Belgium.
The deal would be enough to vaccinate the EU’s 450 million people for two years and comes as the bloc seeks to sustain long-term supplies.
This is the block’s third contract with the two companies, which have already agreed to supply 600 million doses of the two-dose vaccine this year under previous contracts. Brussels aims to vaccinate at least 70% of EU adults by July.
The move comes as the commission seeks to sever ties with AstraZeneca after the drug maker cut its delivery targets due to production problems. On Friday, the EU decided whether to take legal action against the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company for vaccine shortages.
An EU official said the supply agreement was agreed in principle, but it took both sides a few days to iron out the final conditions.
“We will finish in the next few days. It will ensure the doses needed to give booster shots to boost immunity,” von der Leyen said.
The Puurs plant will produce 100 million doses by May
Pfizer has been quick to ramp up production in recent months at its plants in the United States and Belgium to meet growing demand.
Bourla said Puurs should have the capacity to produce more than 100 million doses by May.
Separately, the EU drug regulator said it approved an increase in batch size for shots made there, which von der Leyen says will mark a 20% increase in production.
A company official said it has exported some 300 million vaccines to more than 80 countries around the world.
However, the deal is likely to spur debate on widening the gap with low-income countries as the world’s wealthiest nations pick up stocks and rush ahead with inoculation campaigns.
The United States has given more than 40% of the population at least one dose while in India, where infections hit records, only 8% had a first dose, and in some African countries only 1% was inoculated. , according to a Reuters analysis.
About 27% of people in Canada have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
On Friday, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said vaccines remain out of reach in low-income countries, in comments made on the first anniversary of the COVAX dose-sharing facility.
The EU supply agreement is also Brussels’ latest move to increase its bets on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology that companies use rather than the viral vector technology implemented by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines have been associated with a very rare but potentially fatal side effect.