EU doubles Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine order to 600m doses

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The European Union announced Friday it had purchased 300 million extra doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, as the bloc seeks to speed up its Covid-19 immunisation drive.

The new deal doubles the EU’s order to 600 million doses of the jab, which the US-German company says will also be effective in fighting a mutation of the coronavirus first found in the UK and South Africa.

Despite the World Health Organization warning of an “acute phase” of virus spread in Europe, relatively few people have been vaccinated in a pan-continental drive to inoculate the EU’s 450 million citizens.

Nations including France, where most people are sceptical of the jab, have been criticised for a slow start to their vaccination campaigns since the first shots were administered in late December.

The French government on Thursday announced plans to vaccinate a million people before the end of January as parts of a “simplified” approach.

Meanwhile EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said 75 million shots would be delivered in the second quarter of this year, with the rest of the order to follow.

More vaccines on way

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is one of two that have been approved for use in the EU, the second being a vaccine developed by the American biotechnology company Moderna.

Von der Leyen said the bloc has secured enough doses of the Moderna vaccine to innoculate 380 million Europeans, more than 80 percent of the population.

Overall, Europe now has contracts for 2.3 billion doses of various vaccine candidates, with several of them expected to be authorised for use "in the coming weeks and months”, von der Leyen added.

EU leaders are due to discuss vaccination efforts at a video summit on 21 January.

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