The European Union announced Wednesday it has reached an agreement with pharmaceutical partners Pfizer-BioNTech for an additional 4 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine, to be delivered by the end of this month.
In a virtual news briefing, EU spokesman Stefan de Keersmaecker told reporters these new doses — enough to fully vaccinate 2 million people — will be supplied in addition to already planned deliveries to tackle virus hotspots in the region and should be available to member states, in proportion to their population, within the next two weeks.
The EU says the increase in dose deliveries this month is due to the successful expansion of manufacturing capacities in Europe, completed last month. Pfizer temporarily cut deliveries to the EU in January due to construction work at its plant in the Belgian town of Puurs.
In a statement on the EU website, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has proven effective against all currently known variants of the coronavirus and will help keep them under control, particularly in border regions. She said they also will help to ensure and restore the free movement of goods and people.
The EU said the new doses will help member states that have seen numbers of infections and hospitalizations rise sharply over the past weeks, leading many of them to adopt stringent measures and even in certain cases to impose new border controls.