The EU has finalised a deal to buy up to 300m doses of the groundbreaking coronavirus vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer that has raised hopes of a route out of the pandemic.
Pfizer said it expected deliveries to begin by the end of the year, subject to regulatory approval from the European Medicines Agency.
The supply agreement with the European Commission is the largest initial order Pfizer and BioNTech have received to date, said Albert Bourla, Pfizer chief executive, on Wednesday.
The two-dose vaccine will be made in Germany and Belgium, and member states that opted into the deal will place orders separately, the company said.
Jens Spahn, Germany’s health minister, has already said he is hoping to secure 100m doses — enough to vaccinate 50m of Germany’s 83m population. The EU’s total population is 450m but not everyone has an equally urgent need to be vaccinated. Children, for example, are likely to be a lower priority.
If the needs of other EU member states mean there are less than 100m doses for Germany, the German government said it would seek to top up its supply through direct negotiations with BioNTech. BioNTech, which is based in Mainz, received a €375m grant from the German government in September.
Governments have been scrambling to secure the approximately 180m remaining doses from the initial production run, after data showed Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine was more than 90 per cent effective, with countries that have not signed deals worried that they will be left out.
Brazil’s coronavirus-sceptic President Jair Bolsonaro was one of the leaders that called Pfizer on Monday, said one industry executive. The country's ministry of health said it was examining whether to buy the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine in addition to other vaccines at “advanced stages”. Mr Bolsonaro said Brazil would buy whichever vaccines received regulatory approval.
Initial trial results were published by the companies on Monday and the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine is likely to be first to receive regulatory approval. BioNTech executives said this could come within weeks.
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The UK has been negotiating its own separate supply deals and has already placed orders for 40m doses. The companies plan to manufacture up to 1.35bn doses by the end of next year.
The Swiss government confirmed to the Financial Times that its negotiations with BioNTech and Pfizer “are at an advanced stage”.
Exploratory talks for the EU deal, which has now been finalised, were disclosed in September.
Additional reporting by Bryan Harris in Sao Paulo and Guy Chazan in Berlin
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