The initial 200 million doses of Pfizer / BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine will be delivered to European Union countries by September 2021, a European Commission spokesman told Reuters, recalling that a quarter of the about 400 million people in the EU are vaccinated.
The agency called the deadline “stretched over time” and said the detail had not been known so far.
Vaccination began on Saturday, but in order to achieve levels of group immunity before next fall, fast deliveries of other vaccines will be needed.
Currently, only this development has been approved in the EU, and a decision by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on the Moderna vaccine, using the same technology and storage and transport at very low temperatures, is expected on 6 January. Other promising Western developments have unclear approval deadlines, and information provided by China and Russia on their vaccines is scarce by US and EU standards.
A spokesman for the European Commission told Reuters that talks were under way with Pfizer for an additional 100 million doses. They are conditionally included in the preliminary agreement. It is not yet clear when they will be distributed.
The agency quoted the spokesman as saying that most EU contracts for the supply of vaccines provide for most of them to be implemented by the end of 2021.
A Pfizer spokesman declined to comment on the deadlines and whether what the European Commission spokesman said was a delay. “Our schedules are desirable and changes may occur according to capacity and production deadlines. These circumstances will also determine delivery forecasts and supply schedules,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
So far, Brussels, which is negotiating on behalf of all member states, has such agreements with Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Sanofi and CureVac for a total of 2 billion doses. The first deliveries – according to some of the contracts – can start by March 2021, added the spokesman of the European Commission
The EMA expects to receive applications for vaccine approval from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson in the first quarter of 2021.
The German magazine SPIEGEL claims that the EU missed the opportunity to order not 300 million, but 500 million doses. According to sources familiar with the negotiations, the role was played by the position of France, which wanted to order from the French company Sanofi, and not from the German BioNTech and its American partner Pfizer. This happened in November, when it was already clear that the Comirnaty vaccine would be approved.
The problem is that Sanofi’s product is not coming in the near future and it is not clear what exactly its problems are with the vaccine.
The same was true of the Moderna vaccine – the company, according to its CEO Stefan Bansel, had offered 300 million doses, but the European Commission agreed to 80 million plus 80 million on condition, SPIEGEL added.
The Belgian Janssen Pharmaceutica (a Belgian division of Johnson & Johnson) could receive approval sometime in March and the EU has an agreement on 200 million plus 200 million doses. A maximum of 400 million doses is covered by the preliminary agreement with AstraZeneca, including because, according to unofficial information, this vaccine costs less than 2 euros per dose and can be stored and transported without requiring very low temperatures. 225 million doses have been ordered from Germany’s Curevac, but the product is not expected before the summer of 2021.
In another Monday post, SPIEGEL said politicians on the left in Germany were urging Biontech to license Comirnaty’s production so that other companies could be involved and the number of available doses would increase sharply. The leader of the Bavarian Christian Democrats, Marcus Söder, also insisted on this. He told the DPA agency that the long wait also reduces the population’s desire to be vaccinated. But he did not say how he envisioned the increase in production.
Karl Lauterbach of the GSDP reminds that by the end of March there will be only about 5 million immunized people in Germany. If the federal government does not use all legal possibilities to include other companies, the death of people will weigh on its conscience, warns the socialist health expert in the Bundestag Achim Kessler.
The Greens reject the idea of politically accelerating production because, despite good intentions, “we are not talking about the production of toothpicks.”