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EU Seals Deal for 1.8 Billion More Pfizer Vaccine Doses

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Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. Credit: U.S. Secretary of Defense/CC BY 2.0

The European Commission has struck a deal with BioNTech/Pfizer to buy up to 1.8 billion additional doses of their COVID-19 vaccine, President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Saturday.

The deal comes as EU countries ramp up their coronavirus vaccine programs after a shaky start, due to delivery delays.

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“Happy to announce that the European Commission has just approved a contract for guaranteed 900 million doses,” von der Leyen tweeted.

Additionally, the deal allows EU states to buy a further 900 million doses, she added. “Other contracts and other vaccine technologies will follow,” she wrote.

The new contract also ensures that all the essential components should be sourced from the EU.

The EU executive’s arm announced last month that negotiations on the contract were underway, with von der Leyen saying the European Union needed to concentrate on technologies that had proven their worth.

EU confidence in Pfizer

Saturday’s announcement also underscores the confidence the EU has shown in the technology used for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is different from that behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

The active ingredient in the Pfizer-BioNTech shot is messenger RNA, or mRNA, which contains the instructions for human cells to construct a harmless piece of the coronavirus called the spike protein.

The human immune system recognizes the spike protein as foreign, allowing it to mount a response against the virus upon infection.

America’s Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech have already said that they would provide the EU with an extra 50 million doses in the 2nd quarter of this year, making up for faltering deliveries of AstraZeneca.

In contrast to the oft-criticized Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca, von der Leyen has said that Pfizer-BioNTech is a reliable partner that delivers on its commitments.

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