The contract would specify that production of the doses, including production of essential components, would be based in the EU.
As of last month, the two companies had signed orders for a combined total of 1.4 billion doses for this year (although this total is expected to rise). The EU’s new mega order, therefore, is the first of its scale as well as being the first to set up longer term supplies. As with previous orders, the value of the deal is not being disclosed.
Pfizer and BioNTech are currently targeting total production of 2.5 billion doses in 2021, championing the manufacturing flexibility of the vaccine to meet demand in the future.
Long term vaccine supplies
The first two contacts between the EU and Pfizer have covered the supply of 500 million doses, with the option to increase this to a total of 600 million doses.
Under the current schedule, 50 million doses scheduled for Q4 2021 have now been brought forward to Q2, meaning the EU is likely to receive a total of 250 million doses in Q2.
“To prepare for the future, we are drawing [on] the lessons from the first phase of our answer to the pandemic,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, announced yesterday.
“At a certain point in time, we might need booster jabs to reinforce and prolong immunity; and if escape-variants occur, we will need to develop vaccines that are adapted to new variants; and we will need them early and in sufficient quantities. Having this in mind we need to focus on technologies that have proven their worth. mRNA vaccines are a clear case in point.
“Based on all this, we are now entering into a negotiation with BioNTech-Pfizer for a third contract. This contract will foresee the delivery of 1.8 billion doses of vaccine over the period of 2021 to 2023. And it will entail that not only the production of the vaccines, but also all essential components, will be based in the EU.”
The EU wants to see 70% of adults in the EU vaccinated. After a turbulent start to the rollout, von der Leyen claims campaigns are picking up speed: with 100 million doses delivered across the EU's population of around 447 million people as of yesterday (of these, more than a quarter are second doses, meaning that around 27 million people are fully vaccinated).
But while von der Leyen welcomes this as good news, she notes that ‘there are still many factors that can disrupt the planned delivery schedule of vaccines’ – citing Tuesday's decision to delay the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the EU while investigations into very rare cases of unusual blood clots in the US are carried out.