(Source: European Commission)
Today, the European Commission signed a third contract with the pharmaceutical companies BioNTech and Pfizer. It reserves an additional 1.8 billion doses on behalf of all EU Member States, between end 2021 to 2023. It will allow for the purchase of 900 million doses of the current vaccine and of a vaccine adapted to variants, with the option to purchase an additional 900 million doses.
The contract requires that the vaccine production is based in the EU and that essential components are sourced from the EU. It also stipulates that, from the start of the supply in 2022, the delivery to the EU is guaranteed. Thanks to the well-established cooperation with the companies under the current contracts and arrangements put in place, timely deliveries of the doses are ensured. The possibility for Member States to resell or donate doses to countries in need outside the EU or through the COVAX Facility has been reinforced, contributing to a global and fair access to the vaccine across the world. This new contract will strengthen the EU vaccine production capacity thus allowing to serve other markets across the world.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “With our signature, the new contract is now in force, which is good news for our long term fight to protect European citizens against the virus and its variants! Production and delivery in the EU of up to 1.8 billion doses are guaranteed. Potential contracts with other manufacturers will follow the same model, to the benefit of all.”
Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “We need to be one step ahead of the virus. This means having access to adapted vaccines to protect us against the threat of variants, booster vaccines to prolong immunity, as well as protecting our younger population. Our focus is a priority on technologies that have proven their worth, like mRNA vaccines, but we keep our options open. The past months have clearly demonstrated the need to have access to a broad portfolio of vaccines and different technologies, as well as reliable partners. As the pace of vaccination increases every day and work on effective therapeutics intensifies, we can look ahead with more optimism and confidence.”
Today’s contract with the BioNTech-Pfizer alliance builds upon the broad portfolio of vaccines to be produced in Europe, including the already signed contracts with AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, Curevac and Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer itself. The Commission has granted conditional marketing authorisation for the vaccines developed by BioNTech and Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson. This diversified vaccines portfolio ensures Europe has access to enough doses to immunise its whole population including for the variant viruses.
BioNTech is a German company working with US-based Pfizer to develop a vaccine based on messenger RNA (mRNA). mRNA plays a fundamental role in biology, transferring instructions from DNA to cells’ protein making machinery. In an mRNA vaccine, these instructions make harmless fragments of the virus which the human body uses to build an immune response to prevent or fight disease.
The Commission decided to continue supporting this vaccine based on a sound scientific assessment, the technology used, the companies’ experience in vaccine development and their production capacity to supply the whole of the EU. The Commission will also complement this contract with other contracts for vaccines based on other technologies, thus continuing the successful portfolio approach it adopted from the start.
The European Commission presented on 17 June a European strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing and deployment of effective and safe vaccines against COVID-19. In return for the right to buy a specified number of vaccine doses in a given timeframe, the Commission finances part of the upfront costs faced by vaccines producers in the form of Advance Purchase Agreements.
In view of the current and new escape SARS-CoV-2 variants, the Commission and the Member States are negotiating new agreements with companies already in the EU vaccine portfolio that would allow to purchase rapidly adapted vaccines in sufficient quantities to reinforce and prolong immunity.
In order to purchase the new vaccines, Member States may use the REACT-EU package, one of the largest programmes under the new instrument Next Generation EU that continues and extends the crisis response and crisis repair measures.