- Pfizer and BioNTech have agreed to sell up to 1.8 billion more doses of their coronavirus vaccine to the European Commission, which has struggled with obtaining enough supply of authorized shots.
- Under the terms of the deal, the European Union will begin receiving 900 million new doses in December on a monthly schedule that lasts through 2023 and retain an option to buy another 900 million. All of the doses will be manufactured in the EU, the companies said Thursday.
- The U.S. and German drugmakers have already committed to delivering 600 million doses to the European bloc this year, bringing the potential total allotment to 2.4 billion.
The deal envisions an ongoing need for vaccination as coronavirus infections continues to spread rapidly in parts of the world. People in the future may need annual shots to protect against COVID-19 as well as the flu, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in the companies' release.
All told, Pfizer and BioNTech said they expect to be able to produce at least 2.5 billion doses of the vaccine this year and may be able to reach a 3 billion-a-year pace. Rival Moderna expects to boost its production to 3 billion doses next year.
For the EU, the deal represents a victory after delays in supply slowed the pace of inoculation for its population of 448 million. About 33% of EU residents have received at least one shot, with 14% fully vaccinated, according to the Financial Times' tracker. By comparison, about 49% of U.S. residents have gotten at least one shot and 38% are considered fully vaccinated.
Both the U.S. and Europe are doing far better than much of the rest of the world, which has had little access to any vaccine supply. In India, which is grappling with a devastating wave of infection, only a smaller percentage of adults have been vaccinated.
Pfizer and BioNTech have avoided the manufacturing issues that have plagued AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson in the race to deliver vaccines. In fact, Bourla told investors this month that the company in many cases has outpaced contractual obligations.
The result for the companies has been a windfall in sales. In the first quarter of 2021, Pfizer brought in $3.5 billion in revenue from the vaccine. And the company expects the product to generate sales of $26 billion this year, a history-making figure.
So far, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only one available for children as young as 12 in the U.S. The companies currently have an emergency clearance from the Food and Drug Administration to sell the shot, though they have started the process of seeking full approval.