BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission is in talks with Pfizer and BioNTech on ordering more doses of their COVID-19 vaccine, a spokesman said on Monday, as Germany said it had secured additional shots for itself last September.
The bloc, with a population of 450 million, has already ordered 200 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and has taken up an option to buy another 100 million under a contract signed with the two companies in November. The vaccine needs to be administered in two doses per person.
“The Commission is checking with the companies whether there is a way to add additional doses to those for which we already have a deal,” the spokesman told a news conference.
A spokesman for Pfizer declined to comment on whether new talks were under way with the EU.
BioNTech was not immediately available for comment. It told Reuters on Jan. 1 that it was in talks with Brussels on boosting production for Europe.
The EU’s attempts at securing more doses of the only COVID-19 vaccine it has authorised come amid concern in some capitals that a separate German order for the same shot might compete with broader supplies for the 27-country bloc.
Germany said on Monday that it had agreed with BioNTech last September to supply an additional 30 million doses on a bilateral basis. This was a memorandum of understanding, of which the EU was aware, the Health Ministry said.
That month, Germany announced 375 million euros ($460 million) of funding for BioNTech, a biotech startup based in Mainz, to help speed research and expand production capacity in Germany.
Health Minister Jens Spahn has said national deals were possible with the same vaccine makers once the EU has concluded its own contract and as long as supplies to EU countries were not disrupted.
The bilateral German deal predates by two months the EU contract for the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine that was signed in November after talks that had been going on at least since July.
A spokesman for the EU Commission said he had no information on Germany’s bilateral deal with BioNTech and declined to comment on whether it was in breach of EU agreements.
He said, however, that EU countries had made a political commitment to avoid parallel negotiations with the same pharmaceutical companies to secure COVID-19 vaccines. This was meant to avoid competition among EU states.
The EU has so far signed six supply deals with vaccine makers which envisage distribution of doses on a pro-rata basis to the 27 member states based on their populations.
($1 = 0.8147 euros)
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio in Brussels and Caroline Copley in Berlin; additional reporting by Andreas Rinke and Ludwig Burger; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Catherine Evans)