The European Union has reached an agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech to amend their Covid-19 vaccine contract. As part of the deal, the number of doses that the EU must purchase will be reduced and the delivery deadline pushed back to 2026. This decision comes after months of negotiations and pressure on the EU to secure a change to the contract due to a global oversupply of vaccines and low demand for boosters. Some European governments have even destroyed doses due to a lack of demand.
EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides stated that the amended contract matches “evolving needs”. The European Commission also confirmed that some member states had decided to opt out of the amended deal, but declined to name which countries. These countries will continue to be bound by the current contract.
The original contract, signed in May 2021, committed the EU to purchase 900 million doses from Pfizer/BioNTech, with an option for an additional 900 million, by the end of 2023. However, due to a drop in demand last year, about half or more of the first 900 million doses from that contract have not yet been delivered. The EU has not exercised the additional option.
The European Commission and Pfizer/BioNTech did not specify the size of the reduction in doses that was agreed upon. However, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters that the contract change cuts by about a third the number of remaining doses the EU must purchase. The EU member states that have cancelled doses will have to pay a fee for each cancelled dose.
This agreement comes as the EU continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the rollout of vaccines, the number of cases has been rising in some countries. The Delta variant, which is more transmissible than previous strains, has also been causing concern. Many countries are now considering booster shots to help protect against the variant. However, the oversupply of vaccines has made it difficult for some countries to justify purchasing additional doses.
The EU has been criticized for its handling of the vaccine rollout, with some accusing the bloc of being too slow to secure doses. However, the EU has defended its approach, stating that it has been working to ensure that vaccines are distributed fairly across member states. The bloc has also been working to increase vaccine production within Europe.
Despite the challenges, the EU remains committed to ending the pandemic. The amended contract with Pfizer/BioNTech is just one step in this effort. As the situation continues to evolve, the EU will likely continue to adapt its approach to ensure that vaccines are distributed fairly and efficiently across member states.