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EU secures 300 million more vaccine doses - doubling its current number

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is to update on EU vaccine rollout
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is to update on EU vaccine rollout   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Francisco Seco, file
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The EU says it has secured another 300 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, doubling its current number of jabs.

The announcement came amid criticism that too few jabs were purchased, and that the rollout across the bloc had been too slow.

But on Friday night French and German leaders said they were "determined to continue" a collective strategy of vaccine purchases at a European level.

French president Emmanuel Macron's office said "this European coordination must cover both vaccine orders and production sites in Europe."

The statement came after Macron held separates with German chancellor Angela Merkel and the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

Earlier in the day von der Leyen told a news conference that 75 million from this newest order of vaccines would be available from the second quarter of the year, the rest coming in the 3rd and 4th.

It has agreed to purchase an additional 200 million doses, with the option to acquire another 100 million.

“We have already a contract, so there will be no lengthy negotiations, it’s a proven vaccine, so authorisation is done, member states know the vaccine so they know the logistics behind it, therefore it brings certainty for the planning, and it creates an additional momentum for vaccination in Europe," she said.

On Wednesday Stella Kyriakides, EU commissioner for health, defended the rollout, saying the vaccine strategy had been supported by all 27 member states.

And von der Leyen fielded questions on this theme, again reiterating that the EU "pursued the right path".

“We shouldn’t forget in the summer of last year there were over 160 different people bidding for vaccines, trying to invest in research. We filtered out the six contracts we now have, and we know these were the right places to focus on. These have all made good progress," she said, referring to the vaccine programmes the EU has agreed contracts for.

Vaccination began in the EU on December 27 after the approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

The Moderna vaccine could soon be added to the rollout, after the EU's medicines regulator recommended authorising it on Wednesday. Speaking on Friday von der Leyen said this was a "second piece of good news" following her announcement about the extension of the country with Pfizer/BioNTech.

“This means with these two authorised vaccines we have already secured an amount of doses we need to vaccinate 380 million Europeans," more than 80% of the European population she said.

Other vaccines will follow in coming weeks and months, she added.

The European Commission now needs to approve the Moderna vaccine to make it available to member states.

The EU has secured up to 2.3 billion doses from vaccine candidates, which it says is for the EU and the neighbourhood.