EU secures 4 million more Pfizer, BioNTech doses to target Covid-19 hotspots

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Wednesday that the bloc had reached an agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech on a further four million vaccine doses to be delivered this month targeting Covid-19 “hotspots”, including some 600,000 for France.

The European Commission said on Wednesday that it has reached an agreement with drug manufacturers Pfizer and BioNTech on the delivery of another four million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to be delivered this month.

The doses to vaccinate two million people will be delivered in addition to the planned deliveries, to facilitate border movement and to deal with virus threat spots, the commission said.

“To address aggressive variants of the virus and improve the situation in hotspots, rapid and decisive action is needed,” said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The short-term outbreak of deliveries marks a rare piece of good news after a shortage of deliveries from Pfizer and because AstraZeneca has struggled to catch up on slower-than-agreed production.

The number of infections and hospital stays has risen sharply in recent weeks in regions such as Tyrol in Austria, Nice and Moselle in France, Bolzano in Italy and some parts of Bavaria and Saxony in Germany, according to the Commission.

The extra doses will be used to support its Member States in addressing the hotspots through their targeted use, especially in border regions, to restore the free movement of goods and people, the Commission said.

France said the additional doses would increase the vaccines available in the country by about 600,000.

Pfizer and German partner BioNTech’s vaccine, which won EU approval in December, have been shown to be very effective against all known variants of coronavirus, the commission added.

It is said that the increase in dose deliveries this month is due to a successful expansion of manufacturing capacity in Europe, which was completed in mid-February.

A spokeswoman for BioNTech said the additional doses were a result of an “efficiency improvement” and added that the volumes to be delivered during the second quarter were unchanged.

Pfizer temporarily reduced supplies to the EU in January due to construction work at the plant in the Belgian city of Puurs.

The pharmaceutical manufacturer had previously committed to deliver a total of 500 million vaccine doses to the European Union by the end of 2021, with the possibility of an additional 100 million doses.

Sources told Reuters in mid-February that Pfizer and BioNTech had increased deliveries to the block at a rate of about 5 million doses per week.