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EU Negotiating Follow-up Deal with Pfizer BioNTech?

Earlier delivery of 50 million Comirnaty doses

15.04.2021 - The European Commission has decided against renewing its Covid-19 vaccine supply contracts with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson when they expire at the end of the current year, Italian newspaper La Stampa has reported, citing an unnamed source from the Italian health ministry.

According to the reports also picked up by news agencies, the Commission has decided to concentrate on mRNA vaccines, such as those produced by BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna, as well as the CureVac shot, still in Phase 3 trials. However, a spokesman told Reuters the EU governing body was keeping all options open for 2022 and beyond.

The rollout of the two viral vector-based vaccines has been marred by several incidences of usually rare blood clots as well as delivery disappointments on the part of AstraZeneca and, most recently, Johnson & Johnson.

On Apr. 13, the same day as US health agencies FDA and CDC paused vaccinations with J&J as a precaution, the company said it was delaying its European rollout due to the clotting cases – without mentioning its delivery problems. At press time, officials were still examining the incidents and discussing how to proceed.

The Commission said it was seeking answers from the US healthcare group over its “completely unexpected” delay. An earlier attempt for to obtain answers from AstraZeneca was unsuccessful.

Earlier delivery of 50 million Comirnaty doses

Meanwhile, the Commission is said to be seeking member-state approval to order up to 1.8 billion Pfizer/BioNTech doses for 2022 and 2023, as the American-German duo offered to deliver 50 additional doses of its Comirnaty shot in the second half of this year. This would fill only half of the gap left by J&J’s last mentioned 55 million, as Comirnaty requires two doses to the US producer’s one.

Separately, German newspapers reported that the EU is negotiating a major deal with Pfizer/BioNTech to secure additional supplies of new vaccines designed to boost the immune response to better deal with new variants as well as the newly formulated vaccines for children, for which the companies recently reported positive reports.

Most importantly, in view of the squabbles over exports to third countries of vaccines partly made in the EU, reports said Brussels will require the newly ordered shots to be produced mainly in one of the 27 member states. Pfizer made most of the first round at its Puurs, Belgium, site, which also supplies the UK.

BioNTech can now produce at two sites in Germany, in a converted plant at Marburg bought from Novartis last year in addition to its headquarters site at Mainz. Novartis, Sanofi and Bayer all have agreed to help in the European Covid vaccine manufacturing effort.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist

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