By Haruna Gimba with agency report
The European Union and drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTec said they had reached a deal to amend a COVID-19 vaccine contract, cutting the number the European Union must buy and pushing the delivery deadline to 2026.
The agreement, first reported by Reuters earlier on Friday, comes after months of talks and amid pressure on Brussels from EU governments to secure a change to the contract because of a global glut of COVID-19 vaccine doses and low demand for boosters. Some European governments have destroyed doses.
The amended contract matches “evolving needs,” said EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides in a statement.
For more than two months Kyriakides has been urging EU member states to accept the contract amendment negotiated by the European Commission.
The Commission said in its statement on Friday that some member states had decided to opt out of the amended deal, declining to name which countries.
Those countries will continue to be bound by the current contract, the statement read. A Commission source said that those countries were Poland and Hungary.
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The original contract was signed in May 2021 and committed the EU to buy 900 million doses from Pfizer/BioNTech, with an option for an additional 900 million, by the end of 2023.
About half or more of the first 900 million doses from that contract have not yet been delivered because demand dropped last year. The EU has not exercised the additional option.
The statements from the European Commission and Pfizer/BioNTech did not specify the size of the reduction in doses that was agreed.
But a source with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters that the contract change cuts by about a third the number of those remaining doses the EU is on the hook to buy. The source sought anonymity to discuss the confidential talks.
The EU member states will have to pay a fee for each cancelled dose, the source said, while declining to say what the fee would be. The companies and the Commission also declined to comment on this.
The amended contract specifies that the EU will continue to have access to vaccines adapted to new variants as soon as they are authorised by regulators.