The European Union Thursday announced it has signed a third contract with Pfizer-BioNTech for an additional 1.8 billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, running from the end of this year through 2022.
Announcing the new contract in a statement posted to her Twitter account, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for 900 million doses of the current vaccines and of a serum adapted to coronavirus variants, with an option to purchase an extra 900 million doses. The coronavirus causes the COVID-19 disease.
The contract also has a provision to easily allow EU member states to donate any excess doses to the WHO-maintained vaccine cooperative COVAX, which delivers vaccines to low-income nations.
During a virtual news conference to discuss the contract, EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the deal was made with an eye toward the future and the possible need for booster vaccines to reinforce immunity. She said they were also looking for protection against virus variants, which the Pfizer vaccine has been proven to provide.
The EU has signed deals with six Western vaccine makers to secure up to 2.6 billion doses.
Kyriakides said the progress the EU has seen administering the vaccine has her looking toward the summer months with optimism.
"Over 20 million vaccinations are taking place every week in the EU, compared to a few hundred thousand per week in January, and this number will continue to increase as production and deliveries are accelerating,” she said.
Kyriakides said so far, 40% of the EU's adult population have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and 17% are fully vaccinated.