The European Union has reached an agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech for an additional 300 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine.
At a news conference in Brussels Friday, EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said the deal will double the number of doses the bloc gets from the drug maker. The commission is the EU’s executive arm.
Von der Leyen said the EU had already made a separate deal with U.S. drug maker Moderna for its COVID-19 vaccine, which was authorized for use in Europe earlier this week. She said between the two, the EU has secured enough vaccine to inoculate 380 million Europeans, more than 80 percent of the bloc's population. Each vaccine requires two shots given over several weeks.
Von der Leyen said 75 million of the extra doses would become available in the second quarter of the year, with the rest being delivered later in 2021.
As part of its strategy to combat COVID-19, the EU has reached agreements with six vaccine makers: Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV and CureVac.
It says if all six produce working vaccines, the EU will receive 2.3 billion doses – more than enough to inoculate the EU’s entire population of about 450 million people.
Vaccination programs in the 27-nation bloc have gotten off to a slow start and some EU members have been quick to blame the EU's executive arm for a perceived failure in delivering the right number of doses.
The EU has defended its strategy, insisting that vaccination programs have just started, and that the big deliveries of doses are foreseen around April.