- According to a new Pfizer-EU vaccine deal in the works, the European Union will receive 1.8 billion Coronavirus vaccine doses.
- EU pivots away from AstraZeneca as Greece completes 2M vaccinations
On Thursday, the European Union is working to finalize a deal with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer-BioNTech for what is called the biggest COVID 19 vaccine deal in the world.
The New York Times reports that the deal, which has not been signed just yet, will provide the EU with 1.8 billion vaccines through 2023. This would be the largest vaccine deal in history and it may go a long way in relieving the bloc’s struggling vaccination campaign.
Already Pfizer had agreed to provide 300 million doses that the pharmaceutical giant has already promised the EU in a previous agreement. Pfizer and BioNTech agreed to supply an additional 200 million doses of their vaccine in February as well.
A Pfizer – EU vaccine deal born out of personal diplomacy
The process began through extensive personal diplomacy between European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla.
According to the Times report, von der Leyen and Bourla exchanged countless texts and phone calls for a month before the deal was drafted.
The two first came into serious contact in January 2020 before the pace of their interaction picked up in February. Bourla explained in an interview that such conversations with a high ranking government official were not at all uncommon for him
Bourla said he and von der Leyen had “developed a deep trust, because we got into deep discussions.”
EU pivots away from AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine
Previously, the EU was reliant on the British drug company AstraZeneca for its supply of vaccines.
However, the bloc initiated a lawsuit this week against the company for delays in delivery of the vaccine. AstraZeneca had at one time committed to deliver 120 million vaccine doses by the end of March but in actuality only delivered 29.7 million inoculations by that deadline. The EU has almost 448 million residents — more than one hundred million more than the US population of 328 million.
The relationship hit another snag when it was reported that the AstraZeneca vaccine may be linked to some recipients suffering from blood clots. After the use of the vaccine had been paused by the EU after reports of thrombosis and death in those receiving the vaccine, the drug regulator admitted that it found a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine and a rare clotting disorder.
The drug regulatory authority of the EU, the European Medicines Agency, released the results of its intensive investigation into the safety of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine earlier in April, saying its benefits still outweighed any potential risk of blood clot formation.
But in her interview with the New York Times, von der Layen faults AstraZeneca’s production delays as behind the EU’s slow vaccination campaign.
“I knew that the upscaling of the deliveries would have a slow start by nature in the beginning, and therefore, I also knew the first quarter was going be tough,” she said.
“I did not expect it to be as tough, because we did not include the possibility that AstraZeneca would reduce deliveries by 75%. That was a heavy setback.”
Greece’s Coronavirus vaccinations at over 2 million
The EU has lagged further behind counterparts like the United States, Britain and several other countries in its vaccination campaign.
Greece however reported that one in four of its citizens have already received at least one dose of a COVID 19 vaccine. The rate of vaccinations in Greece is about the same with the rest of the EU countries.
Another 300,000 doses, however, are scheduled for delivery in May, with some 960,000 in June. Greece is also vaccinating with Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, and Moderna vaccines.
Officials in Greece announced plans to begin reopening the country on May 14 in time for the tourism season. Some restrictions remain in place to curb the virus ahead of the planned reopening date.