A new four-year contract extension between the European Union and Pfizer-BioNTech ensures continued EU access to COVID-19 vaccines adapted to new variants as soon as they are authorized by regulators. File Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
May 26 (UPI) -- The European Union has renegotiated its COVID-19 vaccine contract with Pfizer-BioNTech to better address evolving needs for the vaccines, the European Commission announced Friday.
Some member states wanted the renegotiation because they were committed to buying more doses than they currently need, according to a letter they sent to the EU health commissioner last June.
"I warmly welcome the agreement reached with and on behalf of our member states with BioNTech-Pfizer to adapt the COVID-19 vaccine supply in order to match evolving needs," EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a statement.
"We have brought the pandemic under control largely through our vaccines and vaccinations. And while COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency, it remains a threat that is likely here to stay. It is crucial therefore that we are prepared for the years to come."
The four-year contract extension ensures continued EU access to vaccines adapted to new variants as soon as they are authorized by regulators.
The cost of the doses is kept confidential under the agreement. But the original contract cost for about 1.1 billion doses was more than $23 billion, the Financial Times reported.
The new deal also reduces the number of doses to be purchased by EU member states, making them optional. But the EU will still get access to those originally contracted doses if COVID-19 cases rise.
In the statement announcing the new contract, the EU Commission said the 2020 investment in global production of COVID-19 vaccines "exceeded all expectations," saving lives and mitigating the impact of the virus. Those investments were made during the COVID-19 health emergency without knowing whether the vaccines would be effective.
According to the EU Commission, European nations shared 526 million doses with other nations around the world.
This new contract extension is an amendment to the May 2021 deal between the EU and Pfizer-BioNTech that committed to buying 900 million doses, with an option to buy an additional 900 million.