EU Concludes Major Deal with Pfizer/BioNTech

03.05.2021 - The EU has clinched the deal with vaccine team Pfizer/BioNtech hinted at in mid-April. European Commmission president Ursula von der Leyen late last week informed member states about the agreement that foresees delivery of 1.8 billion additional doses of the duo’s mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccine though 2023. This includes an initial 900 million doses with an option for another 900 million.

Under the terms, the 27-member bloc is due to receive nearly 29 million does up to the middle of this week. Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that with the additional supply expected to be rolled out in the EU in the second quarter, the EU should be able to have 70% of its adult population vaccinated by July 2021 rather than the previous target of September 2021.

The Commission’s agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech will stipulate that the shots be produced as far as possible in an EU member state, including deliveries from CMDOs, and will extend to a range of different vaccine products. These could include booster shots to deal with virus variants as well as pediatric vaccines.

According to the latest published figures, the EU has exported more than 150 million doses of vaccines produced within its borders. Japan has received the lion’s share with more than 50 million doses. The UK and Canada have also been on the receiving end, as well as Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Switzerland, Colombia and South Korea. Up to Apr. 27, some 126.6 million first and second doses had been administered in EU member states, fewer than the number of exports, press reports said.

For the newly negotiated doses, EU member states will be able to decide whether they want to use their full allocation, or leave some for others to absorb, or to be resold or donated. They will also be free to make bilateral agreements with other pharmaceutical companies for vaccines in the future.

The deal makes the EU the world’s largest customer for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – ahead of the US. While the bloc has not indicated that it will cancel any of its existing orders with other manufacturers, von der Leyen has said Brussels will concentrate its vaccination efforts on the mRNA shots as well as the protein-based shots made by US biotech Novavax and Sanofi.

Pfizer Exports US-made Covid Vaccine to Mexico

Pfizer has begun shipping US-made supplies of the Comirnaty vaccine to Mexico. This marks the first-ever doses the New York pharma giant has exported from its US plants, although it and German partner BioNTech have sent supplies to several countries from a plant in Belgium. According to the Reuters news agency, Mexico has received more than 10 million doses of the vaccine altogether.

The drugmaker said it will make up to 25 million shots a week in the US by mid-year, which is more than it needs to meet its commitment to deliver the promised 300 million doses by the end of July.

The US has been under pressure to share its surplus vaccine supply. As widely reported, the Trump administration last year barred US companies from exporting vaccines, but a source told Reuters that the restriction expired on Mar. 31. The administration of president Joe Biden last week said it would export up to 60 million doses of AstraZeneca's US-made Covid vaccine.

All eyes are now on Washington to see whether and how many Covid vaccine doses it will ship to India, where the number of infections and death tolls are climbing rapidly. Talks between the US and the World Trade Organization over expanding access to vaccines are set to begin this week. The discussion will focus on how to get the doses “widely distributed, more widely licensed, more widely shared,” White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told Bloomberg.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist