EU Orders 4 Million More Comirnaty Doses

11.03.2021 - Trying to stay ahead of both coronavirus developments and criticism that it is moving too slowly or in the wrong direction, Europe is piling on fresh orders for the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine. On Mar. 10, it announced it had agreed to acquire 4 million additional doses for delivery in the next two weeks.

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the EU “is following closely the evolution of the epidemiological situation in member states.”  Despite the current reduction in the total number of deaths due to vaccination of the elderly and most vulnerable people, she said officials are concerned by the development of a series of Covid-19 hotspots they attribute to the spread of more contagious new variants.

Von der Leyen said that the additional doses and the hoped-for reduction in infection figures are key to the functioning of health systems and the single market. Falling case numbers, for example, could ease tensions in places where EU citizens live in one country and work or do business in another, while at the same time easing the movement of goods, she suggested.

The EU president noted that Brussels is closely is following the evolution of the epidemiological situation in member states and that “decisive action is needed to tackle aggressive variants of the virus and to improve the situation in hotspots.” 

Regions such as Tyrol in Austria, Nice and Moselle in France, Bolzano in Italy and some parts of Bavaria and Saxony in Germany, along with others, have seen Covid infections and hospitalizations rise steeply over the past week, leading national governments to impose passport controls in defiance of the EU’s open borders policy. The Commission has repeatedly criticized the moves.

This is the third time this year that the Commission has ordered additional doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer. In the last round, in mid-February, it finalized a top-up order for 200 million doses while at the same time announcing a major new order with Moderna for 150 million more.

Commission cites Comirnaty efficacy against variants

Von der Leyen said BioNTech-Pfizer’s Comirnaty vaccine has proven “highly effective against all currently known variants of the Covid-19 virus.”  In fact, recent lab studies with engineered versions of the three most common variants have shown the shot to be effective, though some experts warn that efficacy might not be as high in real life situations.

In an interview with Bloomberg this week, BioNTech founder and CEO, Ugur Sahin, said the German company and US partner Pfizer could have capacity to make 3 billion doses of their vaccine next year, another projected capability increase. Not long ago, the duo raised its estimate for this year from 1.3 billion to 2 billion doses. Sahin said the numbers would depend on factors such as an additional booster being required to deal with variants.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist