EU signs supply deals for more doses of mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines

Pfizer and BioNTech said on Wednesday that they agreed to supply an additional 200 million doses of their mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty to the EU, with the European Commission also having the option to request another 100 million. The latest contract, which was finalised earlier this month, is over and above the 300 million doses of Comirnaty that had already been committed to the EU this year.

According to the companies, the extra 200 million doses are expected to be delivered in 2021, with an estimated 75 million to be supplied in the second quarter. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla remarked that "with this new agreement…we now expect to deliver enough doses to vaccinate at least 250 million Europeans before the end of the year."

Order shortfall

The new contract came amid reports, citing unnamed EU officials, suggesting that Pfizer has not yet delivered about 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses that were due in December. According to the sources, the company had delivered 23 million doses of Comirnaty to the EU as of the middle of last week, about a third below the number targeted for mid-February. One official indicated that Pfizer had committed to delivering the missing doses by the end of March.

Meanwhile, Pfizer and BioNTech have reiterated their goal of producing some 2 billion doses of the vaccine globally by the end of 2021 following an upgrade to their manufacturing capacity, although this target assumes "continuous process improvements, expansion at current facilities, adding new suppliers and contract manufacturers and updated six-dose labeling." Ugur Sahin, chief executive at BioNTech, said "we will initiate production at our Marburg facility [in Germany] this month and have strengthened our manufacturing network with additional partners." At the same time, Pfizer and BioNTech are also working to see "how we might address an even higher future supply requirement for our vaccines," he noted.

Another deal with Moderna

Meanwhile, Moderna also announced on Wednesday that the European Commission purchased an additional 150 million doses of its mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine mRNA-1273. The extra doses are scheduled to be delivered in the third and fourth quarters of 2021, and the EU also has an option to secure another 150 million that would be delivered next year.

The bloc had already ordered 160 million doses of Moderna's vaccine for this year, so the new contract brings the total up to 310 million for 2021. Deliveries began in January, with a target to supply 10 million doses by the end of March, although as has been the case with other vaccine makers, there have been some delays. Moderna noted that deliveries of its coronavirus vaccine to European countries have to date come from the company's dedicated non-US supply chain.

Looking ahead, CEO Stéphane Bancel indicated that "the European Commission is in discussions with us on how to prepare for 2022, including addressing potential variants." The European Medicines Agency is preparing guidance aimed at helping vaccine manufacturers tackle SARS-CoV-2 mutations, and said it plans to fast-track variant-modified COVID-19 vaccines.

AstraZeneca's AZD1222, an adenovirus vector-based candidate co-developed with the University of Oxford, is the only other coronavirus vaccine currently authorised in the EU. Regulators there are now in the process of reviewing Johnson & Johnson's Ad26.COV2.S, which unlike the other three, is administered as one dose.

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