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EU chief Ursula von der Leyen says expediting 10 million doses will give Member States "room to maneuver," after several EU countries halted the use of the AstraZeneca shot.
The European Union will receive a total of over 200 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by BioNTech-Pfizer in the second quarter of 2021, the European Commission said on Tuesday.
The amount is 10 million more than initially planned for the quarter. The companies and the European Commission said they had reached an agreement to bring forward doses meant to be delivered later this year.
"It will give Member States room to maneuver and possibly fill gaps in deliveries," Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen said on Twitter.
Several EU countries recently paused the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine amid growing health concerns. This has compounded the bloc's already-hampered vaccine rollout efforts.
The proposal now needs to be agreed by the member states in the joint Steering Board.
The EU reached an initial deal with the vaccine producer in November 2020 for 300 million doses.
Then in early February, the bloc wrapped up another deal to purchase an additional 200 million doses, with the option to acquire another 100 million doses.
The expedited delivery will likely be welcome by EU nations that are feeling the squeeze from a bloc-wide beleaguered vaccine program.
The European Commission has ordered at least 1.4 billion doses of the four coronavirus vaccines authorized in the EU: US companies Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, in addition to BioNTech-Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
Although orders should be more than enough for the some 450 million people living in the European Union, supply difficulties, export restrictions and bureaucratic tangles have led to a current shortfall in the bloc. The suspension of the AstraZeneca jab by some EU countries is the latest setback.
On Saturday, Germany's vaccination commissioner Christoph Krupp called on the European Union to increase its production capacities and for Germany to become vaccine self-sufficient.
kmm/rt (AFP, dpa, Reuters)