The European Union has secured another 350 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for delivery this year, the Commission announced on Wednesday.
Pfizer/BioNTech will provide the bloc's 27 countries with an additional 200 million doses — with an option to request a further 100 million doses — while Moderna is to ramp up supplies by an extra 300 million doses, half of which will be delivered this year. The other half will be delivered in 2022.
As previously announced, 75 million of Pfizer's extra 200 million doses will be delivered to member states in the second quarter. The remaining doses will be delivered in the second half of the year.
Overall, Pfizer is to deliver at least 500 million doses and Moderna 360 million before the end of 2021.
Brussels, which negotiated the acquisition of the doses of the vaccines, came under heavy criticism last month for the slow roll-out of the bloc's vaccination campaign which was compounded by both Pfizer/BioNtech and AstraZeneca/Oxford University announcing delivery delays.
The companies said the delays were necessary to upgrade manufacturing capabilities. Pfizer announced earlier this month that the modification of production processes at its Belgian facility had been completed and that another plant in Marburg, Germany, had been granted a manufacturing licence.
Pfizer's CEO Albert Bourla said in Wednesday's statement that the two companies are "working relentlessly to support the further roll-out of vaccination campaigns in Europe and worldwide by expanding manufacturing capacity.
Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech added that "we will initiate production at or Marburg facility this month and have strengthened our manufacturing network with additional partners."
EU Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides said that the new contract with Moderna "marks another step towards our objective of providing swift access to safe and effective vaccinations to citizens in Europe and beyond over the course of the year."
"The contract is important not only for the short term needs of the EU, but also for our future work to limit the rapid spread of new variants," she added.
All three vaccines approved so far by the European regulator require two shots. The increases announced on Wednesday mean that 430 million Europeans could be inoculated this year.
Brussels has secured more than two billion doses from various pharmaceutical companies to protect the bloc's 450 million inhabitants against the deadly virus. So far, just 22.5 million Europeans have received at least one dose, according to Our World in Data, compared to more than 16 million in the UK.
Over in the US, where more than 55 million doses have been administered, President Joe Biden said on Tuesday during a town hall event that the country should have received a total of 600 million doses by the end of July, enough to vaccinate every resident.
The European Medicines Agency announced on Tuesday that Johnson & Johnson had submitted an application for its COVID-19 vaccine to be authorised for use in the EU. The regulator said it should announce its decision in mid-March.