It’s a done deal. A much-discussed COVID-19 vaccine supply pact between the European Union and Pfizer-BioNTech has been inked.
The companies made it official on Thursday, saying they will deliver up to 1.8 billion doses to the bloc through 2023.
Earlier this month, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted about the enormous deal, signaling that the mRNA shot had become the bloc’s vaccine of choice. Many of the doses under the new deal are expected to be used as boosters.
The contract provides for Pfizer and BioNTech to supply 900 million doses starting in December 2021, with an option for another 900 million doses to be delivered through 2023. This agreement is in addition to the 600 million doses the companies are delivering to Europe this year.
All doses destined for the bloc will be manufactured in Europe. Worldwide, the companies project they will manufacture between 2.5 and 3 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021.
“There is growing evidence that COVID-19 will continue to pose a public health challenge for years,” BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said in a statement. “This contract will ensure sufficient doses of Comirnaty are available for all EU citizens in 2022 and 2023.”
Meanwhile, the companies continue to research the shot as a potential booster dose and are working on an updated version of the vaccine to address variants.
The news comes three days after Europe’s drug regulator recommended extending the storage time for the vaccine at normal pharmacy refrigerator temperatures from five to 31 days, easing logistical challenges.
One EU country isn’t on board with the Pfizer/BioNTech supply deal however. Hungary has opted out of the joint purchase.
“There are plenty of vaccines from Eastern and Western sources,” said Gergely Gulyas, the chief of staff for prime minister Viktor Orban, as quoted by Reuters.
Hungary has close ties to Russia and China and has received COVID-19 vaccines from both countries even though Europe has yet to approve the shots.
The EU deal with Pfizer and BioNTech is further evidence of Europe turning away from the adenovirus-type vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
AstraZeneca’s shot was the first to be approved in Europe but the vaccine has been plagued by safety concerns and supply problems. The company’s failure to live up to contracts has compelled the bloc to take legal action.
Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine was anxiously awaited but its rollout in Europe was delayed over concerns about rare and severe blood clots. Europe will not renew supply contracts with either vaccine supplier after this year, according to a report last month.