The EU has secured access to up to 300 million extra Pfizer doses, following criticism for its slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout

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The Commission is expected to approve other vaccines in the coming weeks and months. Vincent Kalut / Photonews via Getty Images

The EU has secured access to 300 million more doses of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said Friday morning.

If it orders all 300 million doses, this would double its total supply of the shot.

The EU has faced criticism for its slow vaccine rollout but ordering more doses is unlikely to solve the problem, due to supply problems and slow distribution.

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The EU has secured access to 300 million more doses of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said during a press conference Friday morning.

This would double the EU’s total supply of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, but is unlikely to solve problems with the trade bloc’s slow rollout of vaccines.

The Commission proposed purchasing an extra 200 million extra doses to EU member states, with the option to acquire another 100 million doses, it said Friday.

Of the 300 million additional doses, 75 million will be available from the second quarter of 2021, von der Leyen said. The remaining 225 million doses will be delivered in the latter half of the year, she said.

For its initial 300 million doses, which were announced in 2020, the EU had agreed to pay Pfizer-BioNTech 12 euros ($14.71) per dose of its vaccine, according to a tweet by a Belgian politician.

Alongside Moderna’s vaccine, which the European drugs regulator authorized on Wednesday, the EU will have access to enough doses of the two approved shots to immunize 80% of its population, von der Leyen said.

The Commission is expected to approve other vaccines in the coming weeks and months, she added.

Read more: Inside Moderna’s historic coronavirus vaccine program that transformed the biotech upstart into a $55 billion drug industry powerhouse

The EU has faced criticism for its slow vaccine rollout. But ordering more doses is unlikely to solve the problem.

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EU officials said the slow rollout stems not from the number of doses but the availability of them because of manufacturing delays, alongside the fact that countries have been slow to administer them.

“We have to raise the numbers of vaccinations rapidly,” von der Leyen said during Friday’s press conference, and countries need to “step up.”

According to figures obtained by Our World in Data on Thursday, Denmark, the EU state with the highest COVID-19 vaccination rate, has only given the first shot to 1.43% of its population. Every EU member state has vaccinated a smaller proportion of its population that the US, which has vaccinated around 1.79% of residents.

France’s rollout has been particularly slow, with only around 50,000 people out of its roughly 67 million population receiving the shot in its first week of rollout compared to 200,000 in Germany. This is being further exacerbated by the population’s hesitancy to take the vaccine.

“The current government generated a huge amount of distrust over its management of the COVID crisis, and that’s reflected towards the vaccine,” Florian Cafiero, a sociologist at the National Centre for Scientific Research, told the BBC.

During the press briefing, von der Leyen also praised the wide portfolio of vaccines that the EU has secured with six drugmakers, totaling up to 2.3 billion doses. She also discussed the importance of vaccinating the wider European community beyond just the 27 EU member states.

“We’re only safe when everyone in Europe has access to a vaccine, and our neighbors, too” she added. “Only together can we come out of this deep health and economic crisis.”

The doses secured by the EU would enable it to “not only to cover the needs of its whole population, but also to supply vaccines to neighbouring countries,” the Commission said.

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