Today, the European Commission approved a second contract with the pharmaceutical company Moderna, which provides for an additional purchase of 300 million doses (150 million in 2021 and an option to purchase an additional 150 million in 2022) on behalf of all EU Member States. The new contract also provides for the possibility to donate the vaccine to lower and middle-income countries or to re-direct it to other European countries.
Today’s contract with Moderna builds upon the broad portfolio of vaccines to be produced in Europe, including the already signed contracts with BioNTech/Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, Curevac and Moderna. This diversified vaccines portfolio will ensure Europe has access to 2.6 billion doses, once the vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective.
The Commission has granted conditional marketing authorisation for the vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer on 21 December 2020, Moderna on 6 January 2021 and AstraZeneca on 29 January 2021.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “Today, we are securing 300 million additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Moderna, which is already used for vaccination in the European Union. This brings us closer to our major objective: ensure that all Europeans have access to safe and effective vaccines as quickly as possible. With a portfolio of up to 2.6 billion doses, we will be able to provide vaccines not just to our citizens, but to our neighbours and partners as well.”
Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “With this new contract with Moderna, we are adding another 300 million doses of an authorised safe and effective vaccine. It 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 this 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.”
The Moderna vaccine is based on messenger RNA (mRNA). mRNA plays a fundamental role in biology, transferring instructions from DNA to the cells’ protein making machinery. In an mRNA vaccine, these instructions produce harmless fragments of the virus, which the human body uses to build an immune response to prevent or fight disease. When a person is given the vaccine, their cells will read the genetic instructions and produce a spike protein, a protein on the outer surface of the virus which it uses to enter the body’s cells and cause disease. The person’s immune system will then treat this protein as foreign and produce natural defences — antibodies and T cells — against it.
The Commission has taken a decision to support this vaccine based on a sound scientific assessment, the technology used, the companies’ experience in vaccine development and their production capacity to supply the whole of the EU, as well as their capacity to potentially develop a vaccine against coronavirus variants.
The European Commission presented on 17 June a European strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing and deployment of effective and safe vaccines against COVID-19. In return for the right to buy a specified number of vaccine doses in a given timeframe, the Commission finances part of the upfront costs faced by vaccines producers in the form of Advance Purchase Agreements. Funding provided is considered as a down-payment on the vaccines that will actually be purchased by Member States.
Since the high cost and high failure rate make investing in a COVID-19 vaccine a high-risk decision for vaccine developers, these agreements will therefore allow investments to be made that otherwise might not happen.
Once vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective and have been granted market authorisation by the European Medicines Agency, they need to be quickly distributed and deployed across Europe. On 15 October, the Commission set out the key steps that Member States need to take to be fully prepared, which includes the development of national vaccination strategies. The Commission has adopted further actions to reinforce preparedness and response measures across the EU, a strategy on staying safe from COVID-19 during winter offering further support to Member States in the deployment of vaccines and a new Communication on a united front the beat COVID-19. The Commission has also adopted a plan to prepare Europe for the increased threat of variants and the possibility of them being resistant to existing vaccines.
The European Commission is also committed to ensuring that everyone who needs a vaccine gets it, anywhere in the world and not only at home. No one will be safe until everyone is safe. This is why it has raised almost €16 billion since 4 May 2020 under the Coronavirus Global Response, the global action for universal access to tests, treatments and vaccines against coronavirus and for the global recovery and has confirmed its interest to participate in the COVAX Facility for equitable access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines everywhere. As part of a Team Europe effort, the Commission announced is contributing with €400 million in guarantees to support COVAX and its objectives in the context of the Coronavirus Global Response.