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EU expects to get more than a billion COVID-19 shots by September

5 minute read

A woman sits as she waits at a COVID-19 vaccination centre, amid the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Ronquieres, Belgium March 15, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman

  • EU to easily meet vaccination targets, 1.5 bln doses by year-end
  • Doses coming from four drugmakers, not Sanofi, CureVac -document
  • EU leaders back goal of donating at least 100 mln doses in 2021
  • WHO's Tedros asks for much more

BRUSSELS, May 25 (Reuters) - The European Union expects to have received more than a billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of September from four drugmakers, according to a document presented to EU leaders on Tuesday.

The document, seen by Reuters and prepared by the European Commission, shows the EU is confident of having enough vaccines to immunise its entire eligible population by that date, well beyond the initial goal of inoculating 70% of the adult population by the end of the summer.

"We are on track to reach our goal," the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, told a news conference after the meeting with EU leaders. "If we continue like this, we have confidence that we will be able to safely reopen our societies."

The EU expects to get 413 million doses in the second quarter, and another 529 million in the third, according to the EU document. It received 106 million in the first quarter.

By the end of the year, the EU forecasts it will receive another 452 million doses, for a total of 1.5 billion.

The estimates take into account only vaccines from Pfizer/BionTech (PFE.N) (22UAy.DE), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N), AstraZeneca (AZN.L) and Moderna (MRNA.O).

They exclude doses from German biotech CureVac (5CV.DE) and French drugmaker Sanofi (SASY.PA), which have signed contracts with the EU for hundreds of millions of doses but are struggling to develop their vaccines and get them approved by EU regulators.

The numbers are in line with public commitments and previous announcements, but also include previously unknown targets for the second half of the year.

The EU has also said it plans to share at least 100 million doses this year with poorer nations outside the bloc read more .

EU leaders meeting on Tuesday confirmed that commitment in a joint document, but did not make it more ambitious. Some vaccines could also be used for a third booster shot or against variants.

World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thanked the EU for its commitment, but added: "We need hundreds of millions more doses."

He has also urged rich nations to reconsider plans to vaccinate teenagers because those vaccines would be more useful in poorer nations.

Despite Tedros' call, von der Leyen said on Tuesday she hoped the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine could be quickly approved by the EU drugs regulator for teenagers between 12 and 15, noting that a decision was expected towards the end of the month.

The COVAX programme for distributing vaccines around the world, backed by the WHO and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), has so far shipped only about 70 million vaccine doses of the 2 billion planned for this year, as wealthy nations have reserved most of those available.

LION'S SHARE

Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine accounts for more than half the supplies in the second quarter of this year and for nearly 40% of total deliveries in the third quarter.

The document shows that the two companies will deliver 200 million doses in the July-September period, nearly completing their contracted commitment to supply 600 million.

The two drugmakers are expected to deliver roughly 200 million doses more in the fourth quarter, the bulk of which would come from a third contract for up to 1.8 billion doses signed in May, which runs until 2023.

A Pfizer spokesman declined to comment on the numbers cited in the EU document.

Deliveries in the second half of the year also include several million from AstraZeneca, even though it had been required to deliver all its 300 million contracted doses by the end of June.

The company said in March it could hope to deliver only 100 million doses to the EU by the end of June due to production problems and export restrictions.

The EU document is based on the company's estimates rather than on the EU request to deliver 120 million doses by the end of the second quarter.

That request was made by EU lawyers in a Brussels court this month. A ruling is expected next month. read more

Reporting by Sabine Siebold and Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio Editing by John Chalmers

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