Over 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations have now been given in the EU – and a major extension to the European Commission’s contract with Pfizer-BioNTech has been announced.
European Union countries will receive 50 million more coronavirus vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech in the second quarter of 2020, head of the commission Ursula von der Leyen said, as deliveries expected at the end of the year will be brought forward.
Ms von der Leyen said the earlier deliveries, which will start this month, will take total supplies to the EU from Pfizer to 250 million doses in the second quarter of this year.
She also confirmed the Commission was in talks with the two companies for a new contract for 1.8 billion doses, to be delivered in 2022 and 2023.
Ms von der Leyen expressed full confidence in the technology used for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is different from the technology behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
“We need to focus on the technologies that have proven their worth,” she said.
The deliveries will be especially welcomed by the EU’s 27 member nations considering supply delays and concerns over rare blood clots potentially linked to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Denmark has decided not to resume use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after putting it on hold last month following reports of rare blood clots in some recipients.
The bulk of the vaccines given in the Scandinavian country so far have been the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Finland’s health institution also said it would extend its pause in the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on people under 65.
The European Commission currently has a portfolio of 2.3 billion doses from a half dozen companies and is negotiating more contracts.
The planned negotiations with Pfizer left questions about what the EU will do about any new contracts with AstraZeneca, which has had massive delivery problems during the first quarter and expects to send far fewer vaccines than its contract with the EU called for during the second quarter.
The European Commission said in a statement: “We keep all options open to be prepared for the next stages of the pandemic, for 2022 and beyond. We can, however, not comment on contractual issues.”
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