The European Union has cemented its support for Pfizer/BioNTech and its novel Covid-19 vaccine technology by agreeing to a massive contract extension for a potential 1.8 billion doses until 2023.
EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that her office “has just approved a contract for a guaranteed 900 million doses (+900 million options)”.
The new contract, which has the backing of the EU member states, will entail not only the production of the vaccines, but also make sure that all the essential components should be sourced from the EU.
The European Commission currently has a portfolio of 2.3 billion doses from half a dozen companies.
“Other contracts and other vaccine technologies will follow,” Ms von der Leyen said in her Twitter message.
Saturday’s announcement also underlines 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 vaccine 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 recognises 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 they will provide the EU with an extra 50 million doses in the second quarter of this year, making up for faltering deliveries of AstraZeneca.
In contrast to the oft-criticised Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca, Ms von der Leyen has said Pfizer/BioNTech is a reliable partner that delivers on its commitments.