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The European Union has reached a deal to order 300 million extra doses of COVID-19 vaccine from BioNTech-Pfizer, doubling the amount that will be available.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday announced that the bloc had bought up to 300 million additional BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine doses — on top of 300 million already ordered.
The vaccine — developed in a joint US-German venture — was the first of only two to be approved for use so far in the EU and was the first to be used in the bloc's inoculation drive that started in late December.
"The European Commission today proposed to the EU Member States to purchase an additional 200 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by BioNTech and Pfizer, with the option to acquire another 100 million doses," said a statement from the Commission.
"This would enable the EU to purchase up to 600 million doses of this vaccine, which is already being used across the EU," the statement said.
Von der Leyen said 75 million of the extra shots would be delivered in the second quarter of this year.
The EU's executive branch negotiates on behalf of the member states and it has secured contracts to provide up to 2 billion doses of potential vaccines with six different producers.
The other four vaccines must still be green-lighted by the European Medicines Agency.
The EU has also approved a shot from US-firm Moderna Inc., but is still awaiting the delivery of the first of its 160 million doses.
Von der Leyen said that, with the two approved vaccines: "We have already secured the amount of doses that we need to vaccinate 380 million Europeans," von der Leyen told reporters, equating to more than 80% of the EU population.
Along withmember state governments, the Commission itself has come under heavy criticism amid frustration over the relatively slow start of the inoculation campaign for the 450 million people who live in the EU.
The Commission has denied accusations that it did not order enough doses, pointing instead to bottlenecks in production and delivery.
rc/rt (dpa, AFP)